Here’s my received wisdom on this topic:
1. Make a discrete (not discreet) place to keep borrowed books. DO NOT intersperse them with your own books. A section of a shelf, a basket, a tote — a specific spot solely for borrowed books is essential. No Co-mingling Allowed.
Ahem. It is amusing to cruise through a friend’s library and find one of my books firmly ensconced in the midst. Alternately, it’s a bit of a shock to find a book with a friend’s name in it sitting quite comfortably in the middle of my collection.
2. Establish a time-frame for the length of the time you plan to have the book. “When do you need this back?” If your friend needs it back by Monday next [I’m practicing my Britishspeak], either take it and return it by Monday next or don’t borrow it. A sticky note on the cover page: borrowed [insert date] might help track times.
3. If it will take you longer to get through the book than you estimated, check in with your friend and ask for an extension. Your friend may have forgotten that you borrowed the book. “I still have this book: is that okay with you?” Problems arise when folks with a comme-ci, comme ça attitude about their own books assume that their friends are similarly inclined.
4. Return the book in the same condition you borrowed it. If there is a change in condition, point it out to your lender friend and offer to compensate her or replace the book. Most people understand normal wear. Do not underline, dog-ear, coffee-ring, bath-humidify books which do not belong to you. [some friends have my permission to underline – I love to note what they noted.]
5. When you get a reputation as an avid reader, folks will thrust books into your hands and insist that you read (and enjoy) these books. Discretion is the key. If the relationship is a priority, read it. If it is an acquaintance, read a chapter or so and return the book with your thoughts on that chapter. Don’t let other people’s taste dictate your reading. If you cannot in good conscience read the book, explain in a gracious tone why. Be honest. Be brave. On the other hand, a request to read a book can be a great opening to a deeper friendship. If it is just not your preference, consider setting your preference aside for the sake of the relationship.
6. A small note of thanks, even a sticky note, is appropriate. Feedback of any sort is usually welcome.
1. Don’t lend a book unless you are reconciled to the fact that you may never see it again. If it is a precious book, it is better not to lend it than to become resentful when it is not returned.
2. I don’t keep a file or list of books I’ve lent for two reasons: first, I’m lazy. Also, I’m embarrassed to say, that when I’ve kept a file card, I’ve hounded someone about a book, asking repeatedly if he had it. One of us was wrong; it is wasn’t important enough to cause a rift in the friendship. Keep a list, if you are interested in following-up.
3. Write your name on the flyleaf, and/or on what is called the tail or the bookblock/textblock.
4. Let the lender know upfront your expectations for the length of the loan. If you say “whenever” don’t be upset when you buy replacement books shortly before they (finally) return them.
5. I’ve learned not to initiate book loans, as in “Here, read this book!”, except with a very few distinguised friends.
6. If the book doesn’t return, let it go. It’s just stuff. Very, very few books are irreplaceable. (see #1)
My favorite book lending story: early in our marriage Curt and our pastor, Amos, were tooling from one end of the town to the other. Spotting a garage sale, Amos pulled over and they cruised the tables. Seeing a cool book, Amos picked it up and examined it. It had his name on the flyleaf! The seller at the garage sale wasn’t the one who had borrowed the book, so he bought it back. A true Hosea moment.
My gratitude: to my fellow home schoolers who passed around home school books, tapes, videos, and curricula like nobody’s business. We considered keeping a collective inventory at one point – before the internet and LibraryThing. I cannot say how much money I’ve saved by borrowing books. A personal library is a treasure to more than one person.
A good idea: to look through every book in your collection on a bi-annual basis. When it is shelved you can’t tell if it belongs to someone else.
Any stories out there?