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[BKARTS] Secret book repair

On Mon, 14 Mar 2005, J. J. Foncannon wrote:

I don't quite follow the chain of ethical reasoning that leads to the

I think that it's quite inappropriate to rebind books without the owners' permission or knowledge. And I think that a lot of the maltreatment of library books we see stems from not really thinking of the books as being the property of the library.

   I found in my personal library a tattered copy of a book of folk songs
which belonged to the Kansas City Public Library. (Believe me when I say I
don't know how it got there, since I believe that people who steal books from
libraries should be put to sleep.  I lived in Kansas City over 35 years ago.)

   I rebound the book in blue leather with a nice 3/4 binding, and I am
returning it to the library.  No one can convince me that this is a bad thing
to do.

The first part seems pretty obvious to me: if I lent a book (or another object) to someone, I wouldn't want them to significantly alter it without my knowledge or permission, even if their intent is to repair or improve it. And because of that, I wouldn't rebind a borrowed book without permission myself. I don't know what aspects of the book in its original condition might be of value to the owner; I have unpreposessing books on my shelves that have sentimental value which militates against altering them.

Separately, there are lots of people who apparently think it's OK to
highlight in library books, write their shopping lists on the endsheets,
tear out pages that they want, etc.  Some of this treatment comes from
straight-up theives and vandals, but I think a lot of it comes from
basically decent people who just think of library books as not really
belonging to someone else.  (I've heard people suggest that it would be
acceptable to secretly replace their library's signed-by-the-author copy
of a book with another, unsigned copy.  I think the outrage some people
express over donated books being discarded or resold also has to do with
thinking of library books as ownerless, and the library as being without

If the first paragraph isn't convincing to you, if you *would* borrow a
book from someone and rebind it without asking, then the whole line of
reasoning doesn't work.  But if you wouldn't rebind someone else's book
without asking but you would do it with a library book, then I think that
ties into the problem of thinking of library books as ownerless.

On a more practical level: is it OK for a patron to reattach torn-out
leaves in a library book?  Lots of people would think yes, but many of
those same people think that sticky tape is a paper repair material.
Sure, they don't know what they're doing, but they don't *know* that they
don't know what they're doing.  There may be things that you don't know
about the book, or the way the library does things, that would dictate
handling the repair differently, or doing an enclosure rather than a


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