7 Tips For Lending Books — And Getting Them Back

by Emma Oulton

On behalf of all my fellow book-lovers, I have a message to all our friends: stop borrowing our books. Right? I don't think I'm alone here. Us bookworms are extremely proud of our extensive libraries, and we treat each and every one of our books with respect. Lending out books is a risky business: they might come back bent, battered, and blotchy — or worse, they often never come back at all.

When I was young and naive, I used to hand over all my most beloved books to my friends. After all, when a book speaks to you, you want to share that experience with all your nearest and dearest. But as the years went by, I started to notice a strange phenomenon: even though I was constantly buying new books, my collection didn't seem to be getting any bigger. It was like trying to fill a glass of water with a hole in the bottom: my books were disappearing faster than I could buy them.

So I quietly resolved never to lend out a novel again — but that's easier said than done. My obsession with books is pretty well-known amongst my friends, and so I'm generally the first place they go when they're looking for a recommendation. And I've put a lot of work into carefully constructing my beautiful bookshelves, so I love people to browse my collection looking for inspiration. But there's a problem: that perusal is invariably followed by the most dreaded words in the English language: "Can I borrow this book?"

My #1 advice would be to say "absolutely not" — but if you're feeling generous (and foolish), here's my advice for lending books safely in this dangerous, dog-earing, book-stealing world.

1. Invest In A Personal Library Kit

If you're going to lend out your books, you might as well do it professionally. With a personal library kit, you can keep careful records of who has your books — as well as firmly stamping a return date into the book so that your friends know what's up. You could also introduce an overdue books charge; I'm not judging.

2. Draw Up A Whiteboard Of Who's Borrowed What

If you're reluctant to spend money right now (I get it, Christmas present season is expensive), don't let the cost of a library kit prevent you from keeping track of your precious books: with a whiteboard, or even just a big sheet of paper, you can do it yourself at home. Hang the whiteboard intimidatingly over your bookshelf while your friends are browsing, so that they know you're going to take this seriously before they even ask.

3. Protect Your Books

Do you remember those clear book protectors teachers sometimes gave you to protect your workbooks? Before you let your friends get their dirty hands all over your brand new hardbacks, slip them into a protective cover to make sure they come back as good as new.

4. Lend A Bookmark, Too

The scariest thing about people who dog-ear their books is that they look just like normal people. You might be friends with one right now and you'd never know. Perhaps they don't even own a bookmark. Yikes. Lend each book with a bookmark attached, to remind your friends to quit folding corners.

5. Stick A Post-It On The Last Page

The second your friend turns the last page, the danger starts. Worst case scenario: they put it down for a second, and then instantly forget about it for the rest of your life. Yeah, you're never seeing that book again. But if they turn the last page, and are confronted with a giant Post-It note demanding the book back at once and splattered in what looks suspiciously like blood, you should have your book back within the hour.

6. Take One Of Their Books Hostage

If your friend wants one of your books, insist on a book swap. That way, not only do you get to read a new book, you also have some bargaining power to get your own novel back safely.

7. Take A Picture Of Them With The Book

One of the quickest and easiest ways to keep track of who has your books is to take a picture of the borrower holding the book — and don't delete it until the book is firmly back on your bookshelf. That way, they can't dispute having borrowed it, because you have the proof — and if they don't give it back, you can publicly shame them by posting the picture online so that nobody will ever lend them a book again. Hey, blackmail isn't always a bad thing, is it?

Images: Amazon (2); Giphy (6); twirlingpages/Instagram