Libraries constantly have to deal with people that have an immature sense of civic responsibility. Damaged and overdue library books are rapidly becoming the norm and the problem is only escalating. The phenomenon has intensified as a result of the fixed prices of books. Many consumers who feel that book prices are too expensive, are simply going the library to gain access to the book, so borrowing demand is increasing.
It is important to have a mature sense of civic responsibility. Our ancestors emphasized good etiquette for borrowers. According to them, basic manners kept books doodle free. The books we borrowed had to be returned to the lender wrapped in a cloth after it was dusted to keep it clean. However, unlike the traditions of the past, a lot of books these days are returned without any consideration for the traditions of the past. You only need to visit your local library to see the many damaged books that line the shelves.
The problem is more serious in public and children’ libraries. Books are being damaged by borrowers who fold pages, underline text, doodle in the margins, leave food stains on the pages, and practice other irresponsible behaviors. More specifically, pages are folded to mark the reader’ place in the text and in the case of textbooks, core content is underlined all throughout the pages and workbooks with certified tests are marked up with the answers. In severe cases, free gift coupons or pages in magazines are torn out by these irresponsible people.
Damaged books are not only a headache for preservation, but they are also a financial burden for the lender. According to the data, the number of books abandoned because of damage, exceeded 1,600,000 last year in Korea. These severely damaged books, which can no longer be read, are sold at 100 won per kilogram. In the case of expensive or out-of-print books, the damages waste budgets and cause financial problems for the library.
The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Kim Ji-hee (Librarian, Ewha Women’ University) for an in-depth look at the situation their library is facing. First, DKH asked, how books were usually damaged. She said, “eople draw lines and scribble on books. Also they tear off pages. I think bestsellers are the most damaged reading material. In the case of children’ books, popular novels and comic books are the most severely damaged.”
When DKH asked what the library did when it discovered books that are damaged, she answered, “if there is a damaged book, we sometimes tape a copy of the book’ damaged pages in the book to replace its ripped parts.” She added, “If it is impossible to fix, we simply discard the book and buy a new one. We, however, try our best to restore books continuously.” DKH lastly asked about any possible countermeasures that can be taken against a person who is in arrears with a book. “hey have to pay a fine and if the overdue period is really long, we deny them any further use of the library,”she stated.
Furthermore, DKH interviewed Lee Yun-ok (Librarian, Suji Public Library) to investigate the reality of book damage in their public library. DKH first asked about the number of books that were thrown away after being returned. She said, “We abandoned more than 1,000 books last year. Since the Suji public library has the highest rate of utilization, there are lots of visitors, which means there are lots of books thrown away every year.”DKH inquired about the most common ways books were damaged, and what kinds of book were damaged more frequently. “eople doodle on pages and cut out pages of books.
Moreover, they eat when reading them, dropping their food on the pages and only hastily cleaning it up. The damage recorded on academic cartoons and questionnaire books is higher than it is for any other books,”he stated. “if we find damaged books, volunteers repair them so they can be used again. Though, in the case of seriously damaged books, we have to throw them away. However we cannot replace all damaged books, since our budget is limited. We actively take advantage of donated books in order to minimize the distress of visitors,”she explained on procedure of amending and abandoning damaged books. With regards to countermeasures for persons in arrears, the library calls them and sends some text messages regularly. They also post return notices through the mail to their home address. If they don’ return the books despite these endeavors, the librarians go to their houses in person to collect them.
A library is a good way to assess the level of culture in a given nation. 1,600,000 valuable books were abandoned last year. The amount of people reading is important, but citizens should cherish the books and materials found in their local libraries. Then all citizens would have access to books that are in a more desirable condition. It is urgent that we establish a sound culture of borrowing which meets the needs of the 800 public libraries nationwide. People need to keep in mind that these borrowed books are public property, and should treasure them as they would their own. Spring is a wonderful season to read books, so it is a good time to visit your nearby library and reflect on our cultural tradition of respectful borrowing. We must keep in mind that these reading materials from libraries are for people as a whole, rather than for any given individual.
Kang Da-yon, Huh Yoon-a firstname.lastname@example.org