Books are magic. I will always believe that. But, after being a librarian for about 20 years, individual copies of books are just things to me. They are purchased, read, and eventually thrown away. Yes, pitched right into the bin. Every year I put dozens of books into the trash.
Before you start yelling at me, let me make it clear that most of these books have been well-loved. They are the tattered, chocolate-stained, coffee-ringed, water-damaged proof that the love of reading is alive and well– especially in the bath, beach or other water filled locales.
Not all the books have such charmingly innocent stains. Some of the tomes I throw into the rubbish have wavy pages distorted with yellowish stains. I try not to think about the source of the discoloration as I wash my hands over and over and over, and ponder investing in a company that makes plastic gloves or decontamination suits.
Please understand that most people do not pee on, or allow other humans or animals in their household to urinate on library books. And even fewer people return the pee-covered books to the library. (Note to anyone with pee-covered library books. Do not bring them back. We no longer want them. Simply throw them away and come in and tell us what happened. We’ll believe you without the evidence.)
A surprisingly large contingent of patrons write in public books. Years ago I would often find corrections to the author’s grammar, spelling, or style penciled in to the pages. Not so much anymore. I do discover a tremendous amount of phone numbers scribbled on the inside covers. I have often wanted to call these numbers, but never have. Appointments to hair salons, doctor’s offices and the like are frequently noted in library books. Some folks let their kids use the endpapers as coloring books.
And then some are simply mysterious. Just recently I found the following written on the first page of a book:
Combination to a safe? Ages? Measurements? Oddly formatted phone number? Any ideas?
On the last page of another title:
NOW GO WASH YOUR HANDS!
Commentary on a fairly innocent romance? Thoughtful reminder to family member with hygiene issues? You decide.
Library Books: Not Just for Reading Anymore.