Fortunately for millions of library users, libraries ignore Polonius’ advice to be neither a borrower nor a lender. The Sierra Vista Public Library alone circulates 319,000 items annually.
Most of those items are returned. Some are not. Library books that are overdue or never returned is one of the most vexing and expensive preventable problems libraries face.
But the phenomenon of the peculiar lack of interest in returning borrowed books is not new, though it is intriguing. Historical documents show that overdue books is a problem reaching back through many centuries. Studies have been done to try to explain why people fail to return borrowed books, and many innovative yet unsuccessful efforts have been tried to remedy the problem.
In an attempt to shame borrowers, an 1838 edition of the literary journal, “Poughkeepsie Casket,” declared punctuality in returning books was not merely polite, but a religious duty. Book plates declaring “stolen from the library of” have been used in an attempt to thwart ‘book keepers.’ In the mid-1800s, Texas law required the state librarian to publish the names, titles of books, and addresses of people with overdue items!
Libraries have begged, pleaded and bribed for the return of their items. They’ve turned offenders over to credit bureaus. State laws have proscribed public shaming. Schools have withheld grades. The police have been sent to arrest booknappers! Yet the problem persists for both public and private lenders.
Throughout the history of libraries, various attempts have been made to cajole borrowers into returning items through the use of ‘grace periods.’ Advent Sunday was suggested as a day of grace in the early 20th century.
That suggestion didn’t seem to stick, but one that did is “Return the Borrowed Books Week,” created over 50 years ago by the Inter-Global Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Cartoonists. Libraries often use the week to heighten the awareness of the need to find and return overdue materials. This week is an appropriate time to dig out missing books and audio-visual materials and return them to the library so the items will be available for other users.
While “Return the Borrowed Book Week” is the first full week of March, don’t let missing that date keep you from returning overdue library books.
No matter where in the world a person may be, if postal service is available, he or she can return their books!
For those who simply can’t manage to return borrowed items, consider the e-book! In addition to their hard-covered counterparts, e-books, which can be loaded onto electronic devices, are available through the Sierra Vista Public Library. They can be used for up to three weeks, and automatically expire.
The Sierra Vista Public Library staff invites the public to visit and see what’s available for users. The building is located at 2600 E. Tacoma Street. For more information, contact 458.4225 or www.sierravistaaz.gov/svlibrary.