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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?


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