When bad things happen to innocent library books

(Not sure what book this is.)

Submitter: Today, I got to bill people for the moldy book. I am [also] including a photo of a picture book that unfortunately lost a game of tug of war with a puppy.

Holly: Ewwwww! Mold spreads.  It’s the kiss of death in libraries and must be thrown out immediately.  At least staff was able to intervene with these.  It kills me when people think they can just put it in the drive-through drop box and no one will ever know it was them.  Trust me, we know who you are and we will be calling you. The chicken book (below) looks hilarious! I bet that was a cute book!

(Not sure what book this is either!)



  1. I love it when students bring in a moldy book that is still damp and say “I checked it out like that” … six months ago.

  2. For the record, the second book appears to be Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski, published in 2006. Too bad the puppy got it–it’s really funny! Alas, I too have had to pay for books my dog got his mouth on when he was a puupy.

  3. My favorite was the person who returned a well-chewed “How to Train Your Puppy” book who then tried to claim she didn’t have a dog. Hmmmm…..

  4. I love the end of the summer, when all our new fiction comes back from various trips to the beach… with sand trapped inside the plastic dust jacket cover.

  5. Since I cheated and looked up the ISBN of the first one, it looks to be “The Mermaid Cookbook” by Barbara Beery. Ugh! There’s nothing worse than a moldy book, not even a puppy-chomped one. While you can’t read the book after the puppy’s gotten done with it, at least it can’t “infect” other books.

  6. Now, if I notice something strange about the books I am checking out, I try and point it before we leave the library. I don’t know if this is good etiquette, but I have paid for, and ruined enough library books to want to prevent further damage.

  7. That’s actually a really good idea, Portlandme, as I know our Circ staff can put a check-in note on a book in the system, so they know the book was already damaged when you checked it out. Saves you from being charged for damage you didn’t cause.

  8. I used to work in a used bookstore attached to a small local charity – all of our books were donations. People would bring in whole boxes of books, both box and books damp and smelling of mold, and get angry that we would direct them to the trash dumpster!

  9. A fellow VT school librarian complained today of finding wriggling pests enjoying the spill between the pages! Arrrgh!

  10. Worse than a moldy book:
    Any book (often donated) that looks good and secretly reeks of mildew
    Any book (usually found during inventory or weeding but occasionally when someone wants to check it out) with a mysterious, apparently organic object used as a book mark. I personally discovered two that (literally) stuck with me: a mummified half sandwich and a desiccated…well, remember the Baby Ruth scene in Caddyshack? ‘Nuff said?

  11. I still don’t understand how the first or last two pages of a book “magically disappear” 10 minutes after checkout. It’s almost as amazing as a patron offering to keep the damaged book for free afterwards

  12. Our curriculum includes Culinary Arts, so needless to say, our cookbooks come back with everything under the sun spilled on them. But can you really deny that you did the damage when you bring back the book, SOAKED in oil/red wine vinegar dressing (which reeks), and you’re still in your kitchen uniform, which smells the same? Why do people even bother trying to lie?

  13. If you are not sure what book it is – put the ISBN into Worldcat.
    It might make your day.

  14. This became a major problem for our local libraries when our area was flooded in September of 2011. I am not a librarian, just a faithful user (and buyer at library book sales) I always look for obvious damage if I am interested in a book, and would point it out to the person at the circulation desk. I love books and don’t ever want to see them mistreated.

  15. Sometimes when I read a book that someone else has “corrected” I fear that the library staff will think I did it…maybe I will put a sticky note on them as a disclaimer. Right now, for example, I am reading “A Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling, wherein a previous borrower has made erroneous edits to the text, such as correcting a typo in a quoted email message that was already described as poorly spelled, not noticing a beginning parenthesis and putting it in again wrongly, and some “fixing” of UK usage. Sorry, I guess that’s a little OT.

  16. One of our favorites was a puppy chewed book–a DOG TRAINING book, mind you!

    I am always amazed that people will lie to you, often in front of their KIDS, about damages.

  17. Two wet books returned to our section – “Idiot’s guide to sailing” and “Sailing for dummies”!

  18. My all time-favourite is the patron who, after several “please return the book now while the fine is still somewhat small”-letters, arrives furiously into the library and attacks the librarian at the desk (me), with the letters in hand as evidence, waving them for emphasis or something, and starts yelling. After a while I am able to boil it all down to two simple factoids:
    a) he never borrowed this particular book, and
    b) he returned it a very long time ago
    c) so there!

    (Somehow I manage not to giggle in his face, but inside I’m howling with laughter and mentally preparing the incident into another job-related cartoon.)

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