Library Etiquette

Library Etiquette

French fries. Bacon-cheeseburgers. Popcorn and butter. Nothing else tastes quite the same and I don’t mind a handful of grease when eating them. But I don’t want to get slimed when I grab a public handrail or reach for a library book, cd or DVD! Given the amount of gunk and completeness of prints on these library items, the greenest crime scene investigator would be able to identify the perps and what they last ate.

What is it with people? Why do so many apparently feel that, because a public library allows them to take things out, they can ruin the merchandise and the experiences of others?

For two years I used the public library’s pretty impressive selection of music and film. However, of the five hundred or so discs I’d checked out, nine of ten had serious fingerprint goop, oil, and even food crusted onto them. Three of every four were severely scratched or gouged. Even after I’d cleaned them forty percent remained completely unreadable. But worse than a DVD saying bugger off at or near the beginning, far too many waited till the end to poop out, and believe me, it’s pretty irritating when discs stop just before the killer is revealed or the world is saved again, and more so because somebody tossed them into the deep-fryer and skipped them across the pavement on the way back to the library!

Please note: fingerprints are not a disc’s friends. Men excrete more oil than women, women excrete more acid than men, but both permanently pockmark and ruin discs. Particularly clumsy or careless people can do it with just one handling without cooking or playing ring-toss and air hockey.

Others causing multiple skipping or worse include smokers. Tobacco smoke is not simply smelly and noxious to humans, but is oily as hell, coats and discolours everything, and isn’t easily or fully removable from lenses and discs. Needless to say, once on, and certainly after very little accrual, smoke damages discs and makes players skip. Soon the discs are unusable. Smoke also makes the package, book, and even the disc smell more and worse than a wet dog on a rainy afternoon, and that grimy stench doesn’t go away. If something from a smoker’s place is in the room, people smell it! It isn’t cool, folks, so please, pack up and clean when you’re borrowing public property.

Given these problems, I must nearly always clean library discs before using them to assure no damage occurs. I suggested to the library that those who sign discs out should have to show them upon return and, if the discs are newly marked or damaged, either pay for the items or be forbidden to use the library again. The library said that too many hours would be required to inspect discs upon return. I don’t think so, especially when cost is considered. The library’s Criterion DVDs alone amount to a small fortune in public funds, and many of those packages already have destroyed books and severely damaged discs. Many fine compact disc sets are likewise ruined or missing elements. I don’t think it’s too much, too difficult, or too costly to ask to have people present the books and discs they are returning for inspection. I’ve returned every book I’ve borrowed in at least the same condition as when signed out and every compact disc and DVD in better condition. I have even fixed some discs that, when I’d gotten them home, had been unplayable.

So come on, people! If you want to slob it up, keep it to your own stuff. If you borrow public property from the library or ride public transportation don’t be a pig. Care a little. Clean up. Think! It’ll do you good and save money. It’ll also set a good example to others, particularly kids.

So then, I thank ahead of time for being thoughtful and respectful those who’ve slimed and grimed their way in the past but, next time, will keep the books and discs clean and return them cleaner still. That way, the stuff will last longer and more people can enjoy borrowing it.

Good reading and good day!

Brian D. Sadie


About Brian D. Sadie / eloquentb

Brian D. Sadie is president of the film company Eloquent Bastard Productions. He was formerly Executive Director of The Joseph K. Foundation: On Privacy and was recruited and hired as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency. His writing appears in publications as diverse as The Economist, Boston Book Review, TeenLife, and Informationen der Gesellschaft für politische Aufklarüng. Mr. Sadie is often a featured contributor to educational and Ed Tech entities about education and literacy. He graduated with honors from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies and was a Pew Fellow at Boston University at the Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs. He is an ardent sports fan and equally ardent critic of the business of sports.
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2 Responses to Library Etiquette

  1. Pingback: Hit the Books on Library Etiquette « Etiquette with Brett

  2. eloquentb says:

    Hi Brett,
    Thank you! Glad you found use for my suggestions. You’ve got a lot going on your site. Keep the goodness flowing. All best,


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