A Major Pet Peeve: Writing in Library Books

I really really hate it when I take out a library book only to find that some doorknob has written in it — I don’t care if it is just neat little underlines or asterisks in the margin or dumb comments. I also don’t care if you intend to erase your pencil marks when you are done — it still damages the book. If you want to fold, spindle, or mutilate a book, then buy it yourself!


If you write in library books considered yourself on notice! And stop it!

(And for what it is worth, I personally only make very minor marks in pencil in my own books)

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4 Responses to A Major Pet Peeve: Writing in Library Books

  1. R. Austin says:

    I have to sort of disagree — I buy a lot of used books (gotten cheap since I “retired” into academia) and strangely enough, I actually enoy the comments that are sometimes scribbled in the margins.

    Sometimes they are insightful, sometimes just mundane and sometimes cryptic — I still occasionally try to decipher the notes in an early edition of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

    So, if the notes are in pencil, don’t conceal the text (highliters and underlining should be banned), I don’t mind them. Though if YOU DO HAVE to write a grocery list, please do it somewhere besides on page 174. 🙂

    In my own books, I do write cross references, make the occasional correction (what has happened to the profession of copy editing?), etc.

  2. mike aubrey says:

    As one who has worked four years in a seminary library, YES! Thank you for say this.

    To R. Austin:

    Its one thing to write in books you own. Its another thing to write/highlight (which I hate even more) in a book you don’t own.

    That’s incredibly disrespectful to the institution that is making these resources available to you!

  3. R. Austin says:

    As I said, highlighters should be banned! The worst thing about marking highlights (whether in pencil, that disgusting yellow or worse, an entire spectrum of garish colors) is that it is a passive reception of the author’s thoughts rather than actively engaging the ideas through summary, comparison, etc.

    And the real beauty about the results of such “active reading” is that they most likely (like Fermat’s Last Theorem) will not fit in the margin.

    Perhaps there’s a great philosophical lament waiting here about the death of active reading and its replacement with a pale shadow of regurgitation (hmmm, wonder who we get to blame for that).

    Hmmm, maybe I’d just better think again about assigning “How to Read a Book” as a required text…

    I still remember my first visit to a certain legendary research library where the librarian confiscated all my pens and had to provide me a WOODEN pencil (for taking notes in MY notebook, let us note) before I was allowed near the books. Not too bad of an idea come to think of it ….

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