Friday, June 15, 2007

Lending Books

I've been getting notes for a couple months now that I owed a fine to the library for a book I didn't return. I've searched my office and house up and down, and I can't find it, so I paid up. I usually don't lose library (or other) books.


I have a habit of loaning books to students in classes to help them with their research papers. And I have a feeling that I loaned this one to a student and because it's not mine, didn't think to have the student fill out a little index card to stick in the shelf as a placeholder. (Not that doing the index card thing guarantees I'll actually get books back, alas.)

I loaned a grad student a library book once, and then asked to use it in the class, where I discovered, to my horror, that someone had written in INK in the book! I was so horrified that I ranted about it in class, much to the apparent embarrassment of the student who'd done the writing (which I hadn't realized at first in my utter horror). Who takes a library book and writes in it in ink? (Or borrows a book and writes in it period?) (I write in my own books, but not library books.) (The book was brand new, too, as I'd just had the library buy it as a resource for the class.)

I keep telling myself that I'm not going to loan out books anymore, and then I stupidly do. I tend to have lots of useful books in my office, including ones our library doesn't have. Most students are great and return my books in good condition. But sometimes they don't, and I have to track them down, or they never respond to my emails or messages.

It's not like students are unique: I've loaned out at least four copies of Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars, and I've finally quit buying myself new copies. But dang, that's an amazing book!

So, what's the verdict: loan or not?


  1. I tend not to loan books, but then I relent when I am reminded at how pitiful our little college library is.

    Your story about the student writing in the library book in ink reminded me of a fellow I went to grad school with. He was famous (infamous?) for writing in ALL books: his, other students', the library's, etc. The funny part was that his handwriting was VERY distinctive, so whenever I opened a book and saw writing, I knew he had read it before me.

    The library was apparently on to his handwriting as well. One evening, a campus police officer visited our grad student cubicles in search of said student. The officer said that the library had sent him to talk to the student. I found out later that the library had fined the student over $1000 for all the damage he had done!


  2. Only to very special people! I love my books - yes, even the academic ones - so it's a little painful for me to let one go. I seriously doubt I'll be able to loan to my students, which is very bad professor behavior, I know; I'm supposed to be supporting their academic inquisitiveness!

    Unfortunately, experience seems to support my reluctance. The last time I loaned a pleasure book to a friend, her dog destroyed it (thereby solidifying my extreme dislike of her pets). She replaced it but still. I loaned a library book to a friend in grad school; she cracked the spine - luckily, they didn't notice.

    So, put me in the "not to loan except under special circumstances" category!

  3. When I was an undergrad, I never expected that professors would loan out their books. I wouldn't have dreamed of asking. And the one or two times a prof offered to loan me a book, they instantly achieved god(dess)hood in my eyes, and I was totally paranoid about returning the book in anything less than pristine condition.

    I can't understand how students can NOT feel that way. Especially if the reason they need to borrow the book is that they can't afford to buy it themselves! Surely that gives them extra respect for it!

    So yeah, my point is that I doubt your students would think less of you for having a policy that you don't loan out your books. At the very least, maybe you should have a rule that you don't loan out books that belong to the library. Could you, in that situation, get the student to take it to the library and reissue it in his/her own name?

  4. I used to loan out books... but only to friends. To date, not one of them has ever been returned. :(

    However, on the bright side, I no longer have any friends... so problem solved. :)

  5. Rarely do I loan out books anymore...but someone has been borrowing them nevetherless. I've had several books just disappear for a semester and then reappear at the end. Twice I have actually repurchased a missing book only to have the original copy turn up right next to it at the end of the semester. Who is doing this? Wish I knew.

  6. I loan out books but I always assume I'll never get them back. If I do, it's a bonus! I typically won't borrow books, because I'm kind of hard on them (you know, reading in the bath tub, etc.)

    I usually won't loan a book that doesn't belong to me (i.e. a book I borrowed from someone else or a library book).


  7. I do let students borrow material. But I make it clear that returning the book or recording is part of the requirements for the course, and a book not returned by the time grades are due means that the student hasn't completed the course. Therefore, the student gets an incomplete until the book is returned.

    (Hmmm...I should probably check to make sure this is ok to do at my new university!)

  8. I way keep loaning. I like Terminal Degree's idea.

    You could also buy multiple copies of the more pupular books and sell them to students who need them. Not for a profit, of course....

  9. Definitely not.At least for me..I'm never lend my books..I'm buying books every time with lots of care and love,its like my child..How could I lend my child?
    Car Breakdown Cover

  10. Roaringgrrl, Weirdly, I like the idea of a library book writer being fined!

    PhD Me, It's SO hard to have a great resource book and NOT lend it to a needful student, though!

    StyleyGeek, I don't think my students would know about the books I'm likely to recommend. And I've come to the point that I don't lend books I know the library has. That's a good call.

    Dean, LOL, that made me laugh. I just returned a book to a friend yesterday! (After how many months? Don't ask!)

    Bev, That's weird. Do you share an office?

    MWAK, Some books, I'd be happy for people to read in the bath; others not so much. Pleasure books, okay; work books, not so okay, I guess?

    Terminal Degree, What a GREAT idea! I could put it in my syllabus, and maybe even get different colored index cards for different classes? Thanks!

    TBTAM, These aren't exactly "popular" books; more specialized books that a student might find useful for a research paper.

    Sakthi, If it were a child, I'd have given it away ages ago! But books are special!