I recently had to admit, definitively, that it is impossible for me to lend out books from my personal library. It’s even impossible for me to borrow books from the personal libraries of others.
The simple fact of the matter is I find it too stressful.
When I borrow a book I’m always worried that I’ll lose it or somehow damage it. Or worse, I won’t like or want to read it.
I want to be the kind of person who lends out books because it seems like a librarian should be that person. But I get attached to my books. And, well, sometimes borrowers are not so attached. The one time in recent memory that I lent out a book it wound up out of my possession (possibly lost in the borrower’s house) for almost a year. It was a really big production to get it back.
That was essentially the last straw for me. When I started acquiring signed books, I knew it was all over. It was one thing to part with a regular, replaceable book that I could buy again it push came to shove. To part with a book like Extras where Scott Westerfeld himself wished me luck with grad school or like Song of the Sparrow where Lisa Ann Sandell wished me happy reading was totally unthinkable and impossible.
That is not to say I hoard books. I love to give books away. I give them to friends when I know they’ll be appreciated and enjoyed. I used to leave some at random spots around the city after registering them at Book Crossing in the hopes that someone would find them and note it on the site (no one has). Once this blog gets 50,000 views I might even be sending a book to YOU.
Sometimes it’s hard to part with a book–I need some time to build up my strength and eliminate that separation anxiety–but it’s so much simpler to give them away. No strings, and it’s a quasi-gift besides if you give a book to a friend.
My suspicion is that these attitudes stem from a life spent primarily as a library user. Unless I’m at a signing, I almost never buy books. The ones I acquire are random library donations/discards or free advanced reader copies, none of which feel like there are actually “mine” in a conventional sense of the word–these are often the ones I give away. Consequently the books I do actually buy seem much more precious and perhaps even important. And, of course, the huge majority of books I read are borrowed from and returned to the library.
But that’s me. Now I want to hear about YOU. Are you a borrower or lender? Both? Are you neither?