wikiHow to Care for a Library Book

Checking out a book from your local library is a great and inexpensive way to do some great reading free of charge. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to care for books properly. This article will explain how to keep a library book in good condition from the time you pull it off the shelf to the time you return it.


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    Once you find a book, examine it before checking it out. Although there will likely be some minor wear and tear, skim through it and look for torn or missing pages, large stains, pen or pencil writing, doodles, etc. Also check the covers for missing or defaced parts. If you find any of these, report it to one of the librarians, so they won't assume that you are responsible for the damage.
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    If it is raining, put the book in a waterproof bag before taking it out of the library. If you do not have a bag, ask the librarian. Most libraries should have plastic bags available.
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    As soon as you have brought it home, put the book neatly on a sturdy shelf or table. Do not put it indiscriminately on a sofa, chair, or bed, as someone may accidentally sit on it and damage the cover or pages if it is left open. Also do not place the book where it might get wet, such as by the bathroom sink.
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    Keep a calendar. Mark the due date of the book as soon as you check it out. Many libraries can also notify you of approaching due dates by email or phone for free. Sign up for this service if it helps you.
    • Know your options for renewing by phone or internet. If you are eligible to renew an item, you may be able do so without ever leaving home.
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    Do not write in a library book, not even in pencil. Markings are likely to be there for a long time. If you wish to mark sections for later reference, use scraps of paper as bookmarks or use removable tape flags or sticky notes (but make sure to remove them prior to returning). If the book includes a worksheet or questionnaire (common in self-help books) to fill in, make a photocopy of that page and write on the copy.
    • Think back to the last time you checked out a library book that had a lot of highlighting, underlining, or other excess markings. Then, be courteous to your fellow patrons. It's not pleasant to read a book that has been "personalized" by someone else.
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    If you are going to read outdoors, remember to take the book back inside. If it rains or the book gets lost, you'll have to pay to replace it.
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    Use a bookmark. Do not dog-ear pages to keep your place, and do not use a pencil or other, larger object; it could bend the cover or pages out of shape. Also, avoid tenting the book open to hold your place, and don't lay it face open, since it could get mashed open. Any scrap of paper (ticket stubs, envelopes) will serve as a bookmark, or you can make yourself a bookmark from any number of materials.
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    Keep track of the book. Keep it at home or in your book bag. If you worry about losing library books, choose particular places to put them, and put them there consistently.
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    Read and enjoy the book.
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    Return the book to the library on time. If you return it on or prior to its stated due date, you can avoid paying late fees or other charges.


  • Always remember that the library lends you books for free. You have to reciprocate by taking care of the books.
  • If you are taking the library book out of the house, even in a purse, bag or backpack, keep it in a plastic bag to prevent wear and tear from the other contents, or accidental wetting from rain or snow.
  • Don't read library books or other borrowed books in the bathtub or swimming pool. Not only could it fall into the water and be completely ruined, but remember that you don't own the book and will have to pay the library (typically its full retail value, sometimes in addition to processing costs) to replace it.
  • Be really careful about letting any of your friends, or even sometimes family members, borrow your book, because if they lose it or somehow destroy it, you will have to pay for it. Perhaps let them know that they're responsible for the costs if it is lost.
  • Keep the book out of reach of pets and small children (unless supervised). Some pets may chew it, and small children may draw on the book or tear the pages if left unsupervised.
  • Report damaged materials when you turn them in, whether or not you caused the damage. Not all damage is obvious from the outside, and reporting damage will help the library to maintain its book collection in good condition.
  • If you feel compelled to read in or near water, choose a magazine or cheap paperback that you own.
  • Avoid leaving an open library book by a window, glass door, etc. This is because the text or pictures may start to fade if left in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
  • If the book is damaged, do not try to fix the problem yourself. Return it to the library as soon as possible, politely explain what happened and they will take care of it.
  • Think twice before taking library books traveling. Will you be able to guarantee its timely return in good condition? If you aren't sure, find yourself an inexpensive used paperback or two instead.
  • Do not eat or drink while reading library books. Stains and spills are difficult to remove, and you may be asked to pay to replace the book.
  • Use caution when photocopying pages out of a library book. Don't bend or press on the spine and be careful not to fold over pages.
  • Take books back even if they are overdue. Libraries typically charge overdue fines to deter people from bringing books back late, more than to make money. On the other hand, lost materials cost a lot to replace. Your library would rather get its book back late than not get it back at all.
  • If you have overdue books or have difficulties caring for your book, maybe try choosing eBooks. You can download many old, public domain classics for free, and many libraries can check out eBooks to you online.


  • Don't attempt to repair a damaged book yourself. For example, if you find a torn page, report it. Don't tape it yourself. Libraries can repair books with better materials and methods than you can. You are not doing your library a favor by attempting to repair a book yourself.
  • If for some reason your book is misplaced, damaged, or missing you may be asked to pay a replacement fee. However, libraries understand that books can be read only so many times before they'll need to be retired, so enjoy the book, pay for any negligent damage that you cause, and point out problems to the librarian when you return the book.
  • Take the utmost care not to get the book wet. Even if it does dry out, it will develop mold, which will spread to other books. The library knows this will happen and will not accept wet books for this reason. Instead, you will be required to pay for a replacement and to have it tagged and put into circulation.

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