Monday, October 04, 2004

"Stormy Weather" and Other Book Miscellany

Sometimes, people are amazed when I tell them that some people who borrow library books actually damage or deface them on purpose. Sometimes, it's simply a cracked spine that leads to loose pages because the reader wanted to make sure that book was open while he or she was reading.
Water damage is ho-hum typical. True, sometimes a library book gets caught in the rain, but sometimes, a library patron likes reading in the bathtub. Or no, they don't know how it fell into the toilet, but here it is and can they get the fine waived? And then there are the stains: coffee, tea, fruit juice, blood, unidentified liquids. And quite often, crumbs are held between the pages, yearning to be freed.

Sometimes, books are returned with unusual objects that were used as bookmarks, including leaves, mail (yes, people have left books on the counter with their bills, letters, and cancelled checks inside), and condoms. I've heard that at least once, the condom was a used one. And there's no thrill quite like the thrill when a bloodcurdling scream echoes through a library when the clerk checking in a book is startled when a roach crawls out from between the pages. (Yes, I witnessed that about 15 years ago.)

Some patrons, however, write in books. One woman returned a book in which she'd filled every available bit of white space, from inside front cover through the pages to the inside back cover with her religious views. It was out on a 3-week loan, so she had plenty of time to write that "essay." And sometimes, readers comment on the content. Like the book I had to discard last week because a patron had taken exception to the passage, in a book about a woman and her beloved dog, where the author said the dog had gained a lot of weight: "Stop feeding him, you silly woman!"

Or take this example, a brief yet succinct review of Carl Hiaasen's Stormy Weather:



"TOO MANY CHARACTERS
BY THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK
CAN'T MAKE HEAD OR TAILS"

Well, there you go. Everything you needed to know.