Ruined library books

I spilled hot cocoa all over a library book last weekend and, being a decent person, decided to replace it rather than sneak it back. I’ve never ruined a book before so I did some searching about what to do. Made sure to get the same ISBN and same format…used Amazon cause my local Borders is closing and I have free shipping thanks to Prime.
I dropped it off yesterday, explain what happened and the lady accepts the new one and gives me a wonderful smile and thank you for replacing the book. I did the right thing; I’m happy.
Today I got a phone call saying they don’t have “cataloguers” at that branch to apply the stickers and whatnot, so it was being donated to the library bookstore. Next time to just pay them in full, and this is a one-time thing. :smack:

Apparently I didn’t do good.
What have your experiences been with ruined library books?

My roomie’s dog ate my library books. They wanted me to pay for them, which I did (and the sorry roomie never repaid me, as promised). I don’t know it the books were replaced, though.

At many libraries you will be charged an additional fee for the “prep and handling” of the book above its replacement cost, or in addition to giving the library a new copy.

This is from my many years as a cataloguer (though in university libraries, not in public libraries). It is easier if you give the library the replacement cost, rather than a copy of the book. The first decision that will be made is whether to replace the book: the library may have more copies than it now needs, or a more up-to-date book may be better for the collection. (And since they decided to give it to the library bookstore, that’s what the decision is likely to have been in this case.) Secondly, adding a book to the collection does involve more than just buying the book: it has to be processed to be added to the collection, including adding a record for this copy to the catalogue, putting ownership marks on the book, and putting a spine label on the book with the call number (Dewey number or Library of Congress Classification number in the U.S., usually). Even for an additional copy, that costs staff time, and (as you found) often can’t be done at every branch – though in the university libraries where I worked we did try to decentralise some of that processing if possible.

Yes, it’s much better to confer with the library on what to do. You’ll likely need to pay money instead of buying a book yourself. But not always.

Just noting something which is a sort of new development in public libraries.

What with the advent of Baker and Taylor and other book-sourcing companies which offer pre-processed books (basically they are companies where if you purchase books through them, not only do they sell you the book, but it comes with all of the above-listed stuff done to it already, to your specifications) a lot of whole library SYSTEMS are now without cataloging staff.

Our library here has ONE full-time cataloger, and we do not accept replacement books when copies are damaged. She just doesn’t have the time or staff to deal with it when the purchasing company will do it for us and only charge an extra 10 cents or so per book.

It still bugs me, especially when the patron has done their homework and really gotten a good replacement copy, but doing the math on it reveals that it does actually cost us money to take replacements rather than to charge.

ONE exception - very popular hardback genre fiction tends to not be reprinted, and therefore hard to find, so if you damage a science fiction or mystery book, we will take that replacement with grateful smiles - otherwise, it’s just gone from the catalog for good.

Thanks, Giles…good info to know. I guess I should have posted to the Dope before buying the book! It was a brand new hardcover fiction novel, so I’m sure it’ll sell fast.

Why not simply move the the cardboard pocket from one book to another?
How hard is that for a librarian? :confused: Peel it off and glue it back on.

Usually there’s a library rubber stamp mark too. Gosh, surely every branch has that rubber stamp?

I don’t see why swapping out a damaged book is a big deal.

aceplace57, we librarians do secret things that you obviously don’t know about: there’s rather more to it than a book pocket and a library stamp. :wink:

I’m currently reading a library copy of the new Bogie bio. Pages have come loose through no fault of my own - a binding flaw I guess. I’ll tell 'em about it when I return the book…

I lost a library book when I was in college, and the library was a real pain about it.

It was a little paperback version of some play (Shakespeare, maybe?) that was in the public domain, so I figured it’d be pretty cheap to replace. I went to the library, and they told me it would be $65. I asked why in the world it would cost that much. They said that they used to price things based on the replacement cost but decided that that was too much trouble, so they just charged the average replacement cost (plus a standard fee of $15, I think). I pointed out that some of the books cost more than that, and wouldn’t that encourage people to steal them? They said oh, if the book actually costs more, then they charge the real price.

So, if it’s a cheap book, they charge the average, which is way too much, and if it’s expensive, they charge the real price. Hard to see that as anything but a blatant cash grab.

I was able to just pay the $15 if I could provide a copy, but of course they had to have the exact same version, which I had to track down at an online used bookseller for $20. There wasn’t anything special about this version by the way. The currently in-print version had the same notes and everything, just a few typo fixes, and could be bought for $4.

Now, I lost the book, and should have to replace it. But $35 (or, as they originally quoted, $65) to replace a $4 book left a bad taste in my mouth.

One of my dogs chewed on the first book I ever borrowed from the library in this town. I brought it in so they could see the extent of the damage and asked what they wanted me to do. They said that a replacement would be fine and it didn’t have to be the exact same book. It was from a series with many books (Xanth) and they only had 10 or so of them. So, they said as long as I gave them a Xanth book they didn’t already have, they’d take it. I ended up finding the same book for about .50 on

That was the same thing I was thinking. I can see where it might be an issue to introduce a new book into the collection (although I don’t see how it would be a major issue) but I figured a one-for-one exchange of a new copy of a book that was already in the inventory should be any problem.

Like what? I know libraries usually stamp a certain page inside the book. And I know that some libraries use those metal tag strips to detect people trying to steal books. But other than that what secret things can you do to the book itself (as opposed to the library records of the book)?

They summon the great and mighty Cthulu to protect the books.

I once lost a library book. Paid for it, plus the fines and such. When moving, I found it. Was it bad that I kept it and not returned it to the library? (Should I return it? It’s a Carl Hiaasen book, if that makes a difference…)

FWIW, you’re clear by me. Heck, I OWN several library books which I’ve lost or damaged over the years. You paid for the replacement, so you’re clear.

As to the cardboard pocket and such, here’s what happens in our library.

Our library doesn’t use cardboard pockets, so no worries there.

IF we take a replacement copy from a patron, the replacement has to go to the Main library with multiple copies of detailed notes and screencaptures of the patron’s record, the book’s record, and the information about the replacement being in lieu of payment.

The book, patron record and book record have to go to Technical Services.

The patron record, the book record, and the replacement note have to go to Circulation.

The patron record and the “replacement in lieu of payment” records have to go to Administration to our Financial Director.

So, just to get the book out of the patron’s hands, that’s multiple copies of information to various departments, all printed out by a staffer (usually the Manager) at that branch location.

We’ll follow the book now.

It arrives in Tech Services. The part time staffer (has to have an undergrad degree to get the job at all, and preferably a Masters in Library Science - please note this is a PART TIME job) looks at the physical book and the record in the computerized database. If the book is an EXACT MATCH on every level (edition, printing number, size, version, revision, whatever) then she’ll mark a few notations on the computer record, delete the old identification marks (for us it’s a barcode) pull out a new barcode sticker and enter that ID mark into the system to replace it.

Then the book itself has to be marked several places inside, the binding has to be broken and the security strip inserted INTO the binding, and the binding is re-glued. After a week, when the glue is dried, the book is marked with the appropriate interior labels and shelftags, fitted with a plastic protective sleeve, and marked in the catalog as “In Process” and placed back in delivery to the branch.

Once the book arrives at the branch again, it is checked against the system and reshelved.
Now, all of that is if the book matches exactly. If ANYTHING is different - version, edition, binding, size, typefont, anything at all, no matter how minor - the entire computer record has to be re-created, using an arcane system referred to as MARC.

Tech Services Librarians train for years using friggin thick binders and cheat notes to get this particular notation system down, and mistakes are still common. (This is a large reason for libraries not taking donations, and moving towards having source companies provide the cataloging data for their books).

If you’re looking at an online library catalog, most will have a tab labeled MARC view. Click on it if you’re curious. Some person somewhere entered all that mystical computer gibberish keystroke by keystroke. If the replacement copy is changed, then the part timer IS NOT ALLOWED to make the changes, and we have to wait for our one single TS Librarian to get to it and make the changes.

When I was taking TS in school, it took me between an hour and a half to two hours to create a SINGLE MARC record. They’re bitches. I hate them. Our TS person is pretty fast - she can make one from scratch in about 45 minutes.

That’s still 45 minutes of pay time for someone with a Master’s degree and a full-time professional job. I don’t know for sure what she’s making, but I bet it’s somewhere around $20 an hour. Between her paycheck, all the time and gas in the courier van, and all the physical processing time by the lesser-paid flunkies, there’s your replacement cost right there.

I’m not being sarcastic here, but how much of all that serves a purpose?

I used to work in a job where I was supposed to spend several hours every week filling out forms that where put into file cabinets and never read by anybody. Eventually I just stopped filling them out and nobody every noticed they were missing.

Of course for a new-ish book that’s been out for any time at all and sold more than a few copies the cataloging should be easy. I’ve trained a couple of the brighter student workers I’ve had over the years to do copy cataloging (which is ideally importing or otherwise cut & paste and then change the appropriate fields for your own library). You couldn’t do this with some patron’s self-published book of “My Great Aunt Lily’s Recipes and Home Remedies” type thing or a Polish to Swahili Dictionary which is why it often takes those forever to get into the collection, but a recent John Grisham novel or a bestselling bio of Oprah, no problem.

Every day, my store prints out a ream and a half of reports that nobody ever looks at. Half of it goes into a file cabinet for a month, the other half goes straight into the secure recycle box. After a month the first half goes there.

Yeah but what if the patron just swapped the parts that were obviously different, and didn’t mention it when they returned it?

Do you not use OCLC?

At any rate, your library is more hardcore than mine :slight_smile: I’m a copy cataloger (para-professional, but I have my MLS) at an academic library. All I do to physically process a new book is affix a barcode, write the call number in the book, affix an RFID tag, affix a paper card envelope, stamp the top/side/bottom edges, and affix the call number label. Then I send it to circ to be shelved.

I’ve never processed a patron replacement, but I’ve processed gift books that we’ve used to replace books already in the system. All we do in that case is add a 590 field to the MARC record indicating it’s a gift, assign a new barcode to the new book, swap out the barcode in the record for the new one, withdraw the old book (if it’s in worse condition than the gift), and process the new book as usual. If we’re keeping the old book and making the gift book a second copy, the gift book is processed as usual, with the 590 gift note added to the MARC record as well.