I know we don’t even like to think of it, but sometimes when you check out a library book, disaster strikes.
I remember when it happened for me; I was in graduate school, and had to do a book review of a new title in my field. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the book, and left it on the back of the couch while I went to take a shower. Apparently, I was sending out some serious, “I don’t like this book,” vibes, because when I came back downstairs I discovered that my new, adorable, naughty puppy had ripped the back cover to shreds. This was frustrating because not only did I have to pay for the book, BUT I DIDN’T EVEN LIKE IT! Proof positive that adorable puppies can ruin your life.
We know that accidents happen: your toddler got too excited to turn the page; you did not anticipate the sauce splatter from your spaghetti dinner; your relaxing bath was interrupted by a spider and the book fell into the tub during the mighty struggle.
So you damaged a library book: now what? I talked with our circulation and book repair department to help you navigate those troubled waters as gracefully as possible.
Q: Actually, let’s get this one out of the way first: what if I notice that a book has damage that I didn’t cause? How can I avoid being charged for it?
A: If you notice an item is damaged, the best thing to do is to bring it in and talk to the clerks in the circulation department. Show them the damage, and explain that it was like that when you checked it out. If you aren’t able to come in, place a sticky note near the damage in the book (but sticking out so it’s noticeable) with a note that says the book was damaged before you checked it out. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to just turn it back in via the book drop without saying anything; if our clerks notice damage when they’re checking the book back in, they will see who checked it out last and hold that person responsible.
Q: Okay, I admit it. The damage is my fault. What now?
A: Bring the damaged item to the Circulation Desk and we will go over the damage with you. If we determine that the book is no longer fit for circulation, you will be charged for its replacement. Once you have paid for the item, it is up to you if you keep the book or give it back to us. If you give it back to us, we will discard it and it will be placed in our Used Book Store.
Q: How do you determine the fee for the book?
A: The fee for the book is based on the list price for the book when it was purchased.
Q: I’m going to be honest: sometimes that seems like a lot. Can’t I just buy an identical copy and donate it instead of paying the replacement fee?
A: Nope, because we need to make sure it really is an identical copy. The replacement fee also covers the staff time of locating, ordering, and processing the book for our collection.
Q: Why do you keep circulating books that you know are damaged? I’m sick of getting blamed for damage that other people cause!
A: If the damage is minimal, sometimes the book can still be used. Circulating gently damaged books is a way for us to keep costs down so we can buy more new books instead of paying a lot of money to replace old ones. Again, if you notice damage, please either bring it to the desk or put a note where the damage is and we will make sure you’re not charged for it.
So the overriding message from our conversation is this: if you notice book damage, whether or not you caused it, please talk to us! We’re here to help.
Also, keep your books away from puppies. They’re the worst.