Borrowing Books, Lending Books

What do you think about borrowing and lending books?

Here’s my received wisdom on this topic:

On borrowing:

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.

On lending:

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?


9 thoughts on “Borrowing Books, Lending Books

  1. For several years I looked at my marked up copy of a favorite book on a friend’s shelf and wondered if it would be rude to take it without saying anything. I didn’t have enough nerve to tell her it was mine although all the underlining made that rather obvious. I did replace the book but missed my markings. Never did get it back.

  2. When I pass on a book to a fellow book-lover, I always say something like: “I thought it was wonderful, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too, but if you don’t have time or just aren’t interested, just hand it right back.” I don’t want them to feel obligated, especially if they have already planned out the next few months of their reading as elaborately as I sometimes have.
    Michelle and I recently discovered that we should check with each other before placing book orders. She e-mailed the day after Christmas about the huge 40 to 50% off sale going on at B& I headed over and bought eleven books for $40 – using some writing money I had stashed away. She also placed a large order – and then we found we had duplicated four titles! Next time, we’ll compare before ordering – we could’ve gotten four more books, since we always share back and forth anyway!

  3. I don’t think I borrow books–none that I can remember.  If someone has a book I like, I buy it myself or check it out from the library. I’m always scrupulous about getting things back and worried, so I just don’t generally do it.
    As for lending, I do have multiples of the books that I want to lend out.  Occasionally, I never receive one of those back (my name, address, and phone number is always in the book).  Otherwise, I don’t generally lend, except to my mom and one or two very close and responsible friends.
    I do have a bit of a story, though.  We have big, gorgeous bookcases in our family room absolutely filled to the brim with wonderful books.  One family–one of those 3-letter homeschool group families–likes to scope out said shelves and then just pull stuff out and ask to borrow it.  What does one say? They wanted to do this all the time when the boys were younger and we had purchased lots of nice hardback Henty books.  We would let them borrow the books, but we ended up putting shelves in the boys’ rooms and stashing their Hentys there.  Out of sight, out of mind!
    Cindy, I would have said something to the person!  There is one individual who just plain forgets what I have lent her, so after several months have gone by, I just ask.  She’s always stunned and everything, but she always has the book/DVD/TC course, etc.

  4. Our personal, favorite books are such treasures! As a teacher, I’ve always welcomed students to ask for books hoping that they will want to start their own personal library — I love Salvation Army and Goodwill because I can get inexpensive copies of books I’ve loved, and I keep them in baskets in my classroom for my students — if they aren’t returned, and most aren’t, I haven’t lost and hopefully the student has gained

  5. I figgured out how to reverse borrow.  My family loves to read, and aren’t particular as to whether the book has been pre-enjoyed or not.  I purchase titles from Amazon’s used book vendors, then read them before I give them as gifts.  I didn’t get through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle though, might have to check it out from the library. 
    That sounds kind of cheap, but a used book isn’t like used socks or anything.  I even accidentally got an autographed book this way!

  6. In regard to number 5 in the “borrowing” section, my response to the people who try to thrust a book at me is to quickly evaluate whether or not it’s something I want to read and, if so, whether or not I have time to read it soon.  If it looks interesting but I don’t have time, or if it looks like it wouldn’t be to my taste at all but I don’t want to offend a dear friend, I then ask to write down the title and the name of the potential lender in a little notebook in my purse.  The scenario goes like this, “Oh, how nice of you to offer!  So, you really liked “Bodice Rippers of Ancient Egypt”?  Well, I have so many books piled up to read right now, and I would hate to hang onto your book when someone else could be enjoying it.  Would you mind if I write down the title and your name so I know who to borrow it from when I’m ready to read it? Thank you SO much!”

  7. Hi Beth!  What a lovely way to start my day, reading your hilarious comment!  “So you really liked Bodice Rippers of Ancient Egypt?”  ROFL!  I’m off to read your blog.Thanks for introducing yourself.Blessings,Carol

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s