May 12, 2006

Library Books and How to Treat Them

What is acceptable when it comes to writing in library books?

To the best of my knowledge, the library doesn't have guidelines about what you can and can't do to a library book in terms of writing in it. I'm guessing you can't.

But we all know that people do deface/annotate library books. My question is what's acceptable, from a student's point of view?

I ask because some of the books I was reading today were at times verging on the illegible due to drawing, often where the text had been translated into Cantonese (or something very similar) in all of the white spaces.

Here's my (very personal guide) to what's acceptable. I'd be interested to know what others consider acceptable too.

  • Pencil is okay, pen less so. Having said that, if you have to use a pen, use black or blue.
  • Don't write any long notes in a library book. There shouldn't be more than maybe ten words on a page.
  • Underlining is OK, so long as it is straight and doesn't end up crossing through the words. Preferably use a ruler.
  • However, vertical lines are better (i.e. in the margin to reflect important lines/paragraphs rather than important words)
  • Generally, anything written in a library book should be of use to the majority, not just to you. This, perhaps controversially, rules out translation except in a book which isn't in English. Even then, translate words, not sentences.
  • If there's something which might be of use to a few people (such as translations or particular essay ideas which you want to share), write them on a separate piece of paper and leave it in the book. Tough luck if someone decides to throw it out.
  • No graffiti, doodling, useless nonsense, stream–of–thought type stuff

What do you think? And should the library instigate some official policy about what is acceptable, taking into consideration that people will write notes regardless of whether there's a blanket ban?


- 10 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Emma

    Nothing! I don't like people writing anything at all in library books, I don't care what some random person who had the book before me thinks is important, I'd rather work it out for myself. I have been known to go through books with a rubber and rub out all the underlining… I may be slightly obsessive however! Don't know if it makes any difference, but I'm a science student – maybe underlining things in books arts students use is better? (No offence meant to arts students, just that they're different styles of books)

    12 May 2006, 19:56

  2. None taken, but personally when I'm taking notes, the underlined bits often help me to scan through it more quickly as I can tell which bits are (hopefully) useful.

    12 May 2006, 19:59

  3. In my view if people are going to write a lot, they should either shell out for the book themselves or make a photocopy.

    12 May 2006, 20:29

  4. None at all! It really bugs me, because I always find myself drawn to whatever's been underlined, which is occasionally helpful, but mostly not! Yes, there should be fines or something, it's not your property, therefore don't deface it.

    12 May 2006, 23:03

  5. Any kind of annotation in library books really really annoys me because it distracts me and draws my attention to where the previous reader wanted his/her attention to go, and not to where I want my attention to go!

    If you want to annotate, buy your own book. Otherwise, make notes on paper and write 'pg 2' or whatever in the margin!

    12 May 2006, 23:40

  6. no writing in library books. end of.

    personally i hardly ever even dare to write in my own books..

    13 May 2006, 10:35

  7. I'm surprised the comments have been so unanimous so far – I don't write in my own books or library books either, but don't find it as offensive as others have.

    13 May 2006, 14:18

  8. Christopher Rossdale

    There was a little discussion going down the side of a page (the page on anarchism in Heywoods 'Political Ideologies') in the book a friend took out recently. Adds character!
    So no, i'm not against it, especially if it's highlighting what might be useful/adding in notes or comments that add to what's written.

    13 May 2006, 20:10

  9. John Dale

    Just for clarity's sake, the Library regulations do explicitly prohibit writing in books. Regulation 22.1(6) says:–

    The marking and defacing of books and other Library property is strictly forbidden. Readers shall be held responsible for, and shall have to make good, any loss or damage to materials on loan to them or being used by them in Libraries.

    16 May 2006, 09:59

  10. Sam

    Annotation is only ever useful when I am being super duper lazy and even skim reading seems too much effort. Kinda follows then that it shouldnt be done in that case (the whole letting people work it out for themselves thing)!

    Having said all that, whichever books you have found particularly bad, at least you didnt open a fascism book to find a full page sketched portrait of Hitler in the front. Topical but not particularly useful!

    20 May 2006, 17:17


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