Would you loan books out?

I ran across a blog post that was half a thought, or a whole thought that seemed like an unfinished post. It brought up the idea of do you let people borrow your books, if you’ve had a bad experience, do you still let people borrow your books?

Being the kind of person I am, even with bad experiences, I am more willing to loan friends books. I know that we’ll either get the book back eventually or have to buy a new copy depending on who gets it and what happens after the book is loaned out.

For instance, we gave about 10 or so books to a friend of ours a few years ago and pointed out that whenever she’s done with one, put it up and next time we see her we can get the book. No set time limit, she has little free time for reading and we’re aware of that. Besides, we joked, we know where she lives so if we really want a particular book back, we can call her and let her know. She has the books she has borrowed up on a shelf away from her little boy (as adorable as he is, she doesn’t want him to accidentally rip up any of our books.)

We’ll get them back eventually, and if not, well, then if it’s more than what I remember (two books, but even with those I’m not too sure), then I’m sure we’ll get another copy eventually. We also loaned those books out to her before we realized we need a list of the books we have so we can keep track of them. That was when we only had about 200 books (now, we’re hovering somewhere between 1,012 and 1,025–the 1,012 was the last count before we got more books).

Then again, we have a friend who borrowed a book and has gone through both losing and finding the book numerous times. I don’t even really remember what book it was (it was one of Jamie’s large tomes of oddities…I think). But, we’re understanding. The guy’s house is a vortex of being able to lose stuff only to find it months later. Last we heard, he was still working through the book and that’s cool. Sometimes it takes a while to read through something. I think Jamie just told him to keep it last time we talked to him. He’s an awesome guy and we trust him.

On the other hand, we let someone borrow a book of ours to read and told them “you have to get it back to us when you’re done.” Because a) I was still reading it and wanted to finish and b) the book is damn expensive, even when listed as “used” on Amazon. Shortly after letting this person borrow this book, we had to come to the conclusion that we will never get this book back. Or, if we did ever get this book back, it would be destroyed worse than when Fly and Bug decided they wanted to taste literature and destroy about 20 books (most of which were first printings and are almost impossible to find, two of which we know for a fact we will probably never find again. I have only myself to blame for this mess. We are working through getting the books back). Why do I say this? The person we loaned it to, in good faith and a benefit of the doubt, gave us the impression that they were a responsible young adult before revealing their true nature of a whiny five year old with a driver’s license.

Though that’s not the most “damaging” to an actual book, it’s still the worst experience of letting someone borrow one of our books. That experience is worse than getting Jamie’s book back from a friend of ours, which we don’t blame at all for what happened.

Jamie let a friend of ours borrow this really bizarre book. At the time she also had a psychotic kitten (kind of like how we have Snooch), this psychotic little kitten found where she had put the book (to save it from him) and he ripped it all to hell. Currently, we are still looking for a replacement of this book. It’s not a huge deal if we don’t find a replacement as it’s already been about 4 years since this happened and it’s not her fault. Jamie had to reassure her many times that it was ok. He was sat that it happened but shrugged it off and pointed out it’s a book, shit happens.

I don’t think I would want anyone that I work with borrow a book from me because then I really do not know when I would get the book back and there’s always that chance (because I’m a pessimistic realist) that they would still have it when I leave the company (whenever that is. no idea when, but that notion/thought is always there). And, even though we have a vast array of books (from children’s books like Richard Scarry and I Would Really Like To Eat A Child to college texts like biochemistry and genetics), I highly doubt many people I work with would be interested in the books I read. I get more “I don’t like to read” comments than anything.

As for loaning certain books out to people:

There are certain books I will not loan out to people for very simple reasons: they are Jamie’s and he doesn’t want anyone to borrow them or they are from my sub-category of “Before 1960” (which ranges from 1881 to 1960) and they are too fragile to loan out to people. But, if one of those people happened to know how to fix the binding and safely take off masking tape (I did not do this, the people I bought the book from put it on there) because I am terrified of ruining the book more than it already has been.

I would even loan out my much loved, and very worn, copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. But I would probably tell the person that I have to have the book back in the same shape it came in (I know all the creases and bends and markings. I have had this book since I was 8).

If someone were to borrow a book and destroy it, probably depending on who it was and what they did to it I would request they buy me a new damn copy.

I borrowed a book once and accidentally got thumb prints on about twenty pages before I realized what had happened (it was a really good book so I didn’t notice.  but how I managed to miss neon purple thumbprints are beyond me). The next time I spoke with the book’s owner I had told them what happened and offered to buy them a new copy of that particular book. They declined the offer but was happy that I let them know instead of them finding out about it later on.

A book’s a book, and depending on what it is there’s always the chance you can get a new copy. Most of our books are purchased second-hand so we get the chance encounters of under-lining, highlighting, and writing in the margins. If a book really irks me, I’ll start writing in the margins (usually in pencil).

Even with the knowledge that there is a chance I may never see my book again if I let someone borrow it, I still bring up the offer to friends if they ever show interest in any of the books. What’s the most that’ll happen? I’ll have a bit more space on our shelves (woo!), I won’t be able to read that specific book (still have about a thousand others to choose from), and we may never see it again. But that’s ok, we have an updated list of the books we own and if it’s something we really want, we’ll put it back on the Amazon list and buy it again.


The short answer: yes, I would still lend people books. Half the time we probably won’t notice for a while unless we really want it.


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