Rules for Writing in Library Books

#1 Don’t reveal the ending

As in the case of the copy of V.S. Nipaul’s A Bend in the River that I recently checked out, avoid warning us about a character who will ultimately betray the protagonist and how it will happen.

#2 Don’t write racist remarks in the margins

Such as “Unfortunately, the So. Afr. whites have some reason in saying the blacks are like children: another hundred or two hundred years are needed to civilize them.”  I’ll tell you who is uncivilized.  It’s the person who writes bigoted things about people from other countries in the margins of public library books!

#3 Don’t spread your ignorance

If you see a particularly interesting portion of text, feel free to note it.  But don’t lecture us on things you obviously don’t know much about.  By highlighting a conversation about obligations, and writing “this is Africa,” you completely undermine the complexity of the novel and the complexity of the wildly different countries within that continent.

#4 Use pencil, lightly

Don’t write with pen or etch your writing with pencil so deeply into the book that you break through the pages. Give us better equipped readers the opportunity to erase your ideas from future readers’ minds.

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Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 6:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a timely post for me. I have to do a pathfinder for my reference course this semester and decided to do one on Martin Luther. I borrowed “Here I Stand” by Roland Bainton the other day from the local library to do a short writeup on it and found that most of the book had underlining in pencil. I spent about 20 minutes erasing all the pencil marks. At least they took your advice from # 4 and didn’t write in pen 🙂

    Maybe because I’m planning on being a librarian (hopefully), I can’t imagine writing in a library book. Isn’t that what notebooks and journals are for ?

    AL: A noble profession. I don’t tend to write in public library books. But my own, you better believe it. It can be nice to get a library book with one or two thoughtful comments or underlinings. Makes me think about a phrase more than I might have before. Wonder why it meant something to another reader.

  2. I wish when libraries own multiple copies of a title, that they would designate one of them as a “Freedom of Expression” copy and encourage people to write in that one so it could function like a floating book club discussion.

    After weeding so many books that apparently have never even been opened, it is nice to see evidence of interest in other books.

    I do wish folks would just use pencil though. Yellow underlining is just so tacky and garish.

    AL: Oh, I love the “Freedom of Expression” copy idea! I’m going to submit that idea to my library. who knows, maybe the idea will catch on. =)

  3. I occasionaly leave letters in library books… on seperate peices of paper, disguised with handwriting that isn’t my normal one.. is this bad ?

    AL: Sounds interesting!


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