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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Mending Library Books

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 5, 2011

If a book is checked out of the library 20 times, it will likely need some mending and repairs.


If a DVD is checked out of the library 30 times, it will likely need some cleaning and re-polishing.


The same is true with CDs.


The 65,000 pages of information in our Digital Shoebox Local History database never get “worn out” physically, but there are costs related to software and equipment maintenance.


The databases that we provide to the public are the same, the maintenance costs relate to the continued operation of the technology, not the physical pages of data.


Libraries still mend books, even in these days of computers and technology.


The average is that if a book is checked out 20 times, it will likely need some mending; whether the hinges, the spine, or the book’s pages.


Most of our books have dust jackets with mylar covers for protection, and often the covers need cleaned or replaced.


What happens when a book leaves the library with a human being?  Librarians chuckle and respond that it is probably better not to know.


The books with tire prints on the outside cover, or skid marks on the spine, or animal teeth marks on the corner provide some idea for where the poor library book goes once it is off the library shelf.


How about the wet library books, placed over a person’s head to keep them dry?


A little microwaving may dry the pages and prevent mold, but more than likely, the wet book is ruined.


Then there are the myriad of excuses that librarians receive for damaged books.


“My dog tried to eat the book, it fell into the bath tub, and I forgot and left it on the picnic table during the rainstorm.”


The one that causes librarians to wince is, “It was that way when I checked it out.”


Perhaps we check out a book with a loose spine, or a wobbly hinge, maybe the cover has a small tear in it, a crayon mark here and there, but the library doesn’t check out books missing their spine and outside cover.


And besides, there is no barcode to scan to check out the book!


Forty years of working in a library has brought me to the conclusion that people are embarrassed to return a damaged library book and accept the wrath of the librarian.


And actually, we have seen it all, heard it all, and probably smelled it all on library books.  You won’t shock us, and we really aren’t mad about it, just glad that the book is returned.


We would kindly and politely suggest that you keep books away from your household pets, any type of moisture, and dirty hands.


If an accident does happen, simply return the book and we might access a repair or replacement cost, but if you returned the tattered remains of the books, we will knock off 20 percent of the cost of the item just due to your kindness.


We will try with our glue and tape to do our very best, but sometimes even that won’t work to mend a library book.