Monday 26 November 2007

To Loan or Not To Loan?

One of the things which came up during the How Clean Is Your Book? debate (sorry, that will probably mean nothing to non-UK visitors) was a question which links into the to-scrawl-or-not-to-scrawl dilemma. Well, not really a dilemma - don't think I've encountered anyone who was indecisive or unsure on this point - whereas the subsidiary question provokes, I would imagine, rather less black-and-white reactions.

To loan or not to loan?

While we all agreed we wouldn't write in books which were borrowed, do you borrow? Do you follow old Polonius' advice and avoid being either a lender or a borrowed, knowing that one loses the friendship with the one, and something about keeping, or.... ok, I can't remember the *exact* quotation, but I'm sure you know the one about which I'm talking. One of the defences for scrawling was that the book is for one reader's eyes only - if they're never loaned out, then nobody can object.

It must be the librarian in me - I love lending and borrowing books. Love it. Must admit, when I borrow books I tend to end up buying them anyway, since I like to have copies of books I've read - partly, to go full circle, because I can then lend them to other people. The main argument against lending books, of course, is that they somehow don't find their way back - I must have been fortunate in the people I chose, because I've never had that problem. Each of my books is like a homing pigeon... yes, there is one person who's had a pile of my books for four years, but I have had a pile of her books for the same length of time, and I know the piles will be exchanged in good time. Something about borrowing a book makes it even more special than following up a recommendation (though that is also great) - a real connection between reading friends.

Exceptions and Problems...

1) I don't lend Miss Hargreaves... she might be the only one. I'd be distraught if she went missing. While I'm on her, think there's a UK copy on ebay at the moment... Just checked, there are actually two. Go to it!

2) Isn't it awkward when you lend to someone who isn't as keen as they sound, and the weeks go by, and you know they're never going to actually read it... how does one ask for it back politely? I tend to let book-love go about etiquette, and just ask for it back...

3) And in reverse - when someone presses something on you. You quite like it, but don't want to be trapped in a spiral of reading things by that author until your friend's collection has run out. "I enjoyed it - will let you know if I'd like to borrow more, thanks" never sounds convincing, does it?

4) Please don't lie to me. If you didn't notice that about thirty pages are accidentally reprinted, then you didn't read it... this happened to me once...

Despite these issues, I love lending and borrowing! By post, in person, all good.
Howsabout you??


  1. On borrowing/lending/recovering: I've only lost one book and Bill has lost one (has bought another copy) - so that's not too bad. One friend I used to exchange books with collected similar things - so, to keep our books straight we used book bags (each distinctly belonged to the other). When not looking at the borrowed book it was kept in the bag and hung on a doornob - at both houses. That way, the borrowed book didn't get mixed in with the other's.

    Other than the bookbag bit, I put a bookmark of mine inside a loaner - one that I designed with my name on it: If lost and found or borrowed, please return to...

    There is one person I've met in recent years who really likes what I collect and I loan to her - and with no worry. My other friends read things I definitely don't (sci-fi or non-fiction accounts of dreadful things) so I refuse their offers - though I wouldn't mind saying I didn't like it or just couldn't get into it.

  2. Of course Dark Puss lends books to his friends, and his friends generously reciprocate. This doesn't amount to more than a couple of books per year and both sides always get them back. If I am not interested in reading a proffered book then I refuse it politely. I suspect that I may have a very small number of books I wouldn't lend (except to one or two very special friends) because of the difficulty of replacing the copy. However in general I'll always take the risk.

  3. As a fellow librarian, I too enjoy lending and borrowing books from friends. I make sure that there is a bookplate with my name in the front, and I often include a bookmark with the book that has my name on it, as well. I actually came across this neat little book one time that was specifically for this purpose. It provided beautiful bookmarks that could be removed and given along with the book that was being borrowed. On the tab that remained, you write down the borrower's name and the date so at least you won't forget who has your books.

  4. I do enjoy lending and borrowing and have generally found that books pressed upon me have been ones I've enjoyed. I do get a bit upset when books I've lent out in very good condition come back tattered. I do make it a point to give things back in the same condition they came to me in.

  5. A friend of mine always wrapped books she was lending in paper bag - not any old bag, but one that said 'clean' 'neat' 'I care about my books', thus giving the subliminal message of 'please look after this book and return it in good condition'. It always worked for her - and it has worked for me, when I have remembered to try it. Sometimes a book comes back in the self-same bag, sometimes another - but always in good repair. Try it! OVW
    ps I also record loans in a notebook because my memory gets worse each year - I usually let the borrower see me do this... another subliminal message: 'I've got your name'!

  6. To reassure you, there seem to be enough copies of Miss Hargreaves to go round - I got a very nice hardback copy (Tom Stacy Reprints) on Abebooks recently.

    I have a small number of people I lend books to and borrow from, mostly things which are hard to get, which increases the risk, but it's good to share them with those who will also take pleasure in them.

  7. You know you don't have to be anonymous, don't you Mum?
    And the whole accidental reprint thing proves nothing - some people read books and forget which language was used...

  8. I have never had a problem lending books before, but recently had a bad experience where I lent my cousin five books and her 18 month old son shredded all the covers. She promised to replace them, but four months down the track I am still waiting. I don't know if it would be very tactful to remind her!

  9. This is a tricky question. Of course I love sharing good books with other book lovers, but that being said--I've been burned more than once on this issue. I will use the same example that I always use (will I never forget this...probably not!). I bought Ian McEwan's Atonement brand new via Amazon in the UK because I couldn't wait until it was published in the US (and yes, with the horrible exchange rate it was a big splurge). Loved it. Loaned it to a fellow library worker. She never returned it and then Retired! I don't even bother trying to get it back as I know she is a book recycler and sends books to friends and relatives, so no doubt it is long gone--maybe in California or somewhere. I can only hope the current owner loves it as much as I did. So now I don't lend out books very often. I have lost a few other books (less beloved, so therefore I don't talk about them as much) that way as well. I do needlework and will loan out my charts to other needleworkers (even those I don't really know well) as I have always gotten those back. Strange really. I don't think of readers as being non-returners (especially coworkers!), but there you go.


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