Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Official: I Destroy Books

Today's story actually begins with the book I have been reading recently, which I hate with the power of a thousand suns. I can't give up on a book, so have been forcing myself to read it for the better part of a month. Yesterday, with 40 pages to go, I had to renew it online because it's due date had come around. Again. 

I logged in to renew my book, succeeded in renewing it and then noticed there was a "block" on my account. (Why I can renew a book when my account is locked, I don't understand.) I learned the reason for the block was because I "destroyed" a book I checked out about 2 months ago and then returned. Really, if you actually destroyed a book would you bother returning it?  My penalty for book destruction is listed at $15 to replace the book. 

The destroyed book was called The Irresistible Henry House and was actually quite enjoyable. My sin? I put the book into the same bag as Big Girl's swimming suit. Yes, it got damp. 

When you think about a library book that is "destroyed" to the point that it can't be reshelved, what do you think of? Here's what I think of:

Is there significant damage to the cover? 
Is there damage to the binding?
Are there pages missing, torn or falling out?
Are any of the pages illegible?
Is the book partially burned, covered with paint or marker or otherwise marked? 

In this case, the answers are no, no, no, no and no. Yes, some of the pages towards the back got a little warped the way books do if they get wet. That is it. 

The news that I am a book destroyer came at a pretty bad time for me.  My week has been filled with insomnia, unforeseen stress, a notebook paper length list of not-super-important-but-necessary things to do that I'm worried about forgetting and probably some other things. You know, "If something could go wrong, it will"? One of those. So the $15 book fine thing really has been bugging me more than it probably would ordinarily. 

I am still denying that I destroyed the book or damaged it in a way that makes it unworthy of library shelf participation. 

After I raged out for awhile yesterday, I decided that I would go in today, demand to see the book (or, ideally, find it on the shelf and then do a "Ah-ha!" surprise reveal showing that I know they are scamming me), argue that the book wasn't damaged and the fine is undeserved, and then probably end up paying the fine anyway. But I would demand to take my destroyed book home, dammit! 

Eric counseled me yesterday at dinner about flying off the handle about little, insignificant stress like a "small library book fine". (First, he clearly missed the major injustice that has been put upon me. Second, I also fly off the handle when he assumes my stress is insignificant.) He was right, though after dinner he got his chance to stress out because we got a letter in the mail that he has been sent to collections over a $10 unpaid magazine subscription. Seriously, does that actually happen? 

So this morning I woke up and decided I have had enough stress this week and I would just go to the library, be nice and pay my fine, as unjust and slanderous as it is, so that I don't work myself up and carry around bad feelings all day.  

As Little Man and I walked into the library, there was an announcement on the intercom. (No, it was not signaling that a book destroyer with a blocked account entered the library. That would be cool though, right?) "Will the owner of a black lab with a tan collar please report to the circulation desk?"  And then guess what we saw! A young (maybe 1 or 2 years old) black lab having the time of it's life running around off leash in the library. There's the downside of those automatic sliding doors. (Do dogs ever run into the grocery store? I have never seen it, but I bet it happens.)  

The dog came and greeted us and then headed off to the children's section, because that's where the fun is.  The library worker made the intercom announcement again while I was searching the shelves to see whether my destroyed book was actually shelved and still in circulation. No luck.  

I approached the circulation desk as a random guy with his daughter brought up the dog, held by the collar, and tried to convince the workers to tie the dog to something so that it would not continue to run free in the library during library story time.  For those of you on my facebook who saw my post about the library book, what follows is one example of what I mean when I say that the library workers have been jerks and "really strict" when we've been there.  

The woman who seemed to be in charge honestly psychoed out while I was standing there. She was stomping around like a little kid, muttering about how "now people are going to call my administration and complain because there is a dog in the library". And she attacked the poor guy who brought the dog over and was like "If you want to tie the dog up, you tie the dog up. That's on you. I'm not going to have the dog's owner complaining because I tied it up." (If you are like me, you are thinking, Are you going to DO anything about the dog running around the library? Making an announcement and then letting the dog run loose doesn't seem like much of a solution. The dog was very friendly but still.) 

The dog in the library situation was amusing and reminded me to relax and not take myself or my $15 too seriously. Plus, the head library lady clearly has had a hard day and needed a Valium.  

So finally the guy dragged the dog outside (tying him up to a tree with some rope he had in his van) and it was my turn to approach the desk. I was actually nice! I basically said: I saw on my account I owe money for a damaged book. I already returned the book because I didn't think it was anything that would make the book unsuitable to be checked out. I will pay the fine, but I would like to have the book if I am going to be paying for it. 



I still don't really believe it. Nor do I believe that they can only accept cash. Luckily my credit union is right down the street because I only had $1.73 in my wallet. 

So now my record is clear, I own a copy of a book that I enjoyed and can recommend to others, and am out $15.  

A friend of mine was at library story time during this whole experience, so I showed her the book. For the record, she agrees with me that the damage was minimal and it is stupid that I had to pay for the book. And now she is living in fear because of a slight spill on a library book she still has at her house.  Honestly, I can think of at least a handful of books I've checked out over the past two years that were in much worse condition.  

For those of you who are doubters and don't believe all my no, no, no-ing above... I took pictures!! 

WARNING: The photographs below may contain images that some readers will find disturbing.

Cover -- the little bend on the edge happened when I put the book
in my purse after I destroyed it, then paid for it.

Back cover

I'm not saying the book didn't get damp on the corner, I'm just saying, is this a destroyed quality library book? I really don't think so. 

Happy reading, everybody! I'm off to take my chances on my next library book!


  1. WOW! I've checked out books with much more damage than this. At lease they let you keep it...

  2. Fortunately, I do not need to live in fear. The damage to the book from the slight spill is undetectable. :) Unfortunately, apparently the cat raced over one of our other books....I suspect we will get charged for that one! :(