Posted on May 11, 2013
“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.” Anatole France
A quiet little phenomenon pervades our culture and my home. While relatively mild on the spectrum of Faux Pas foibles, it is one that continually infiltrates my life. It is the issue of book borrowing. My husband and I lead small groups for our church and have come to acquire a large library of books and materials that support not only group topics but also personal enjoyment. In the past 15 years, we’ve lent out approximately 50 books. To date, not one of these books has been returned. This shocking statistic came to me yesterday as I was re-organizing my bookshelves. I’ve resisted putting pen to paper to calculate the total dollars lost as my denial is much more comfortable than the reality.
With the popularity of eBooks and other electronic forms of literature becoming the norm, I’m going to assume that my little problem will self-correct. It will not however; prevent me from incurring the cost of replacement. As an etiquette writer you might presume that my life is free of personal blunder. You would be mistaken. I recently (relatively speaking) borrowed a book from a friend only to return it 12 months later after losing interest in it then losing it all together in my wellspring of reading material. After blowing off the dust, I sheepishly returned it along with a gift card to a nearby bookstore. It was a guilt gift.
So…is there book borrowing etiquette? There sure is. In short, you handle the borrowing of a book as you would anything else that does not belong to you.
You politely ask
You quickly read
You promptly return
Allow me to expound on the last point, please. You promptly return it in the same condition as you received it. You are not the owner therefore, you are responsible for the borrowed item while in your possession. You will resist the urge to use it as a coaster. You refrain from dog-earring the pages. You battle your impulse to read while bathing. You contain the compulsion to highlight the text or make notes in the margins. You wash the remnants of the chocolate lava cupcake from your fingers prior to opening the first page.
I’ve adopted three new policies for the Martini household which you also might find helpful: 1.) I will not loan a book that I highly value. 2.) I will keep a log of the books I have loaned out. 3.) I will keep a stash of bookstore gift cards handy when I fail to take my own advice.