Sunday, November 14, 2010

Library Advice for Students

I'm reading a play I haven't read since the last time I taught this course. I have two copies of this text, and it looks like I had lent this copy out to a student at some point. How do I know? I know because it's got all these bits of text circled in pencil. I suppose I should be grateful it's penciled, but who the hell writes in someone else's book? If I remembered who I'd lent it to, I'd write them a nasty email even now.

A couple years ago I ordered a book for the library, and a student in my grad course was the first person to take it out (for a review assignment). The student lent me the book during the dicussion of the review, and it was written in in ink. So I asked the student, and she said, all shocked that I would dare to question, yes, of course she'd written in the book. Then I ranted at her for a good long time.

Now, I write in my own books. I expect people to write in their books. I write in pencil these days, but I've written in pen. But that's my OWN book.

I just erased the circlings. Bleargh. What a useless marking a circle is, anyway. At least if you're going to write in a book, write useful notes!

But mostly, don't write in books that aren't your own personal property, especially if they're MY books! And don't write in library books.

And oh, yeah, if you borrowed my copy of Hendricks and Parker, please, for the love of dog, return it!


  1. I concur wholeheartedly with this -- I'm reading a well-known review of a certain genre of literature from the university library and it has been massacred with underlines and boxes in black pen. WHO DOES THIS? Who writes in library books? Can we revoke their library privileges if we find out who they are? ARG.

    Plus, in all honesty -- if you underline everything, how can you tell what's important?! O_o


    phew. yes. heh. sorry.

  2. post-it notes are the greatest invention in the history of the universe. they come in tiny sizes, too.

    nobody should mark up someone else's book. ever. especially a library book.

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  4. I do not tolerate any kind of marking in any book, no matter whose.

    I didn't even mark test prep books with notes pages IN THEM in med skool.

    But holy crap, borrowing a book and writing in it?

  5. I write in my own books. And I made very faint pencil marks in library books, sometimes, in grade school, when writing my dissertation (this was previous to post-its). But I did erase after.

    What's the use of a text if you don't engage with it?

  6. Anonymous8:44 AM

    to anyone at a small college (and I mean small) - at the college library I worked at before (FTE 500 students) we had a lot of books that had been underlined in BEFORE they were donated to the library. But it was seen as better to have the book with the underlining than to sell it and not have it at all.

    But yes - in most cases, if you find pen in a library book it was done after it was already a library book. Which makes me mad, not as a librarian necessarily, but as a reader, who wants to read around that?

    Oh and please - I beg the universe (because I know this is preaching to the choir here) if you mark in a library book in pencil, please remove it yourself?

  7. Peter9:28 AM

    I'm a heavy marker, though no longer in borrowed books of any variety. I did once make a few marks in some books in a law firm where I worked and was completely reamed out by a partner. I think that cured me of any tendency to mark. I might have put some very limited and very faint pencil lines next to some text in library books, but not for many many years. Yes, post-its are the best substitute when actively reading.

    Now, I have purchased used books for courses, and sometimes I've really enjoyed marginal comments from a good reader. And, once I checked out Nicholas Nickelby from my college library. Someone had made some pencil drawings at the end of some chapters illustrating key scenes, and I quite loved them. Not at all a desecration or imposition: an enhancement. They were enchanting.

    I love the community that can be forged through a single copy of a print text. I like that someone had this particular book and interacted with these particular moments. It can be a shared experience.

    So, it's crass to mark borrowed texts. That's not to say I don't enjoy working in a marked text, however.

  8. I recently lent 11 copies of a book to a faculty committee, with a very clear statement that I needed them back in good, ie, pass-on-able, condition. I got *5* copies back...ALL heavily inked. And my request that people buy me a new paperback copy and they could keep their hardback was met with deafening silence. Sorry, I'm never lending books to faculty again.

    *Totally agree* -- write in your OWN books, not someone else's.

  9. Anonymous11:36 AM

    I kind of enjoy coming across 19th century marginalia when I'm covered in dust going through legal archives.

    21st century student underlines, circles, and highlighting... not so much. At least say something interesting.

  10. peter -- that was back in the day, before cases came to be all online! sometimes one would need to photocopy a case [or portion of transcript], and cleanup of the marginal notes was a pain in the butt involving wite-out. i never minded post-its left in reference volumes, though.

  11. I'm sorry, I didn't borrow your edition of Hendricks and Parker. Nor will I lend you mine.

    I do not write in books. My first year in college, I highlighted. I highlighted every other word, practically. Then I decided it wasn't helpful, so I stopped, and took notes instead.

    But rare books are fun: I read one once which had nasty comments about 18th C Yale faculty. And 18th C doodles.

  12. Ack! Don't erase the pencil marks -- they could belong to King Henry VIII!

    OK, probably not in your university's regular circulation. :)

  13. I don't mark up books. One senior seminar class, we were required to mark up books. It nearly killed me. And I did my dissertation in pre-Post-it days (I kept a reading guide in a legal pad. It was just as handy as a marked-up book, even moreso!)

    I still hesitate at writing my name on the flyleaf of books I buy for work but since I've had many students and some colleagues abscond with them, it's necessary.

    Ironically, I enjoy historic marginalia. If people want to mark up their own books, that's okay. But leave my books and our library books alone, or I'll consider you a cretin!

  14. Had to bring this by: