"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Borrowing Etiquette

I'm a very generous person with my books. You ask to borrow one, and I will say yes in a heartbeat. But, as I'm sure we've all experienced at some point, there will always be people who test your patience with their inadequate knowledge of the rules that come with borrowing books. For all you lenders and borrowers out there, this post is for you. Follow these few simple guidelines, and the book sharing process will be a fun one!

From: The Secret World of Arriety (Based on the book: The Borrowers)

For the Borrowers:
Borrowing books from friends and acquaintances is one of the best ways to expand your reading repertoire.  It's better than the library because, unless you have a rather uptight friend, you can take your time reading the book, and you have someone to discuss it with when you're finished. Despite many borrower's good intentions, things can happen that will strain your book sharing relationship and put your future chances of borrowing from that person again at risk. Below are a few things that could go wrong, and how to avoid them.

  • Make sure you know the lender's expectations: Does he or she need it back soon? Is it a book that is particularly special to them? What was their reaction when you asked to borrow it? Did they give it to you to read without you having to ask for it? These are all important things to think about. If the the lender seems reluctant to let you borrow the book, make it clear that you will take good care of it and possibly even set a date at which it will be returned to them. If they asked you to read it, they want to share it with you, and while you should make it one of your first priorities, you have a little more wiggle room as far as the length of time you hold on to it. If they really don't want to lend it to you, don't push the subject. That is one case when going to the library is the better option.
  • Take good care of the book: Even if it seems like the lender couldn't care less if they never see that book again, you never know how people will react to you damaging their property. Books can get damaged in unexpected ways (I have to be very careful about putting books in my school backpack), so keep an eye out. This also includes not losing the book. That's just not right.
  • Set some sort of time limit: You may be a slow reader. I get that. I know I am! Most of the time people don't mind if you don't return book within a few weeks and some can get away with keeping them much longer than that, but that doesn't mean you can read it and forget about it. As soon as you are finished, contact the lender, say thank you, tell them what you thought of the book, and discuss a time at which you can return it. They will be impressed by your initiative to follow up.
  • Don't borrow too many books at once: Lending books is often a very personal act. When you give someone a book, you want to share that reading experience with them. It can be discouraging to the lender if they ask if you've finished it yet and you say, "No, I've got too many other books to read." Borrowing several books from several different people just adds to your stress level and their disappointment at you not having read it yet.
To some people this post might seem a little over the top. "Why are there so many rules?!" they would say, "It's a book. It's not that big of a deal." And in some cases, that's true. But some things are just polite, and the right thing to do.  Borrowing books is like being a good neighbor. You share each other's joys and sadnesses, and if someone comes over asking for a cup of sugar or your copy of The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale*, you let them have it, knowing they would do the same for you.

ps. Stay tuned for my next post about Book Lending Etiquette!
* Guess who I had the pleasure of meeting recently? More on that later!

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