Try not to take it out on the book

overcoming passive aggression cover

Overcoming Passive Aggression: How to Stop Hidden Anger From Spoiling Your Relationships, Career, and Happiness
Murphy and Oberlin

Submitter: This isn’t exactly an awful library book, but it’s unusual for me to receive a damaged item that makes me laugh out loud at the Reference Desk!

Holly: You’re right – the book itself is a great choice for a public library.  I guess it didn’t work out so well for the patron, though!  Was it returned in the book drop this way, or found on the shelf?  That’s REALLY passive aggressive if it was actually on the shelf like this!  This reminds me of a patron years ago who sheepishly returned a book to the library about how to train your puppy, and the book had been completely destroyed…by her puppy.


  1. My favorite is the patron who had a bunch of fines on their account because they had checked out a bunch of “How to Organize Your Life” type books and couldn’t manage to return them on time.

  2. I once found in our book return a book with the cover gone and deep puncture holes throughout the remainder. It was clearly dog damage, and since the book was returned in a ziploc bag, it was clear that the borrower was aware of the damage.

    So we sent a bill for replacement and heard nothing – for six months – until the day the patron needed a transcript for grad school. Then she explained that the damage was done not by her dog, but by a friend’s dog, and the friend had since gone to Europe, and she couldn’t get payment from him. That and she really really needed a transcript that afternoon or she’d miss her grad school application deadline.

    She did not get a transcript that day, and months later finally paid up.

  3. One time a man came in and returned a stack of children’s books about states. The one on California was drenched. He came in a week later to protest the bill he had received. I asked him how the damage occurred. He said he didn’t do it, the book was in his backpack. OK, well then what happened while the book was in your backpack? You don’t understand, he said. I didn’t do it, the *rain* did it. I must say I didn’t look very impressed, because he paid for the book the following week (I probably didn’t win the day. It was not being able to check out more stuff that probably got him to pay up).

  4. This reminds me of those stock paragraphs on the copyright pages warning people against buying “stripped books”, only in this case its the other way around!

  5. My favorite librarian/patron interaction happened when I was in high school and worked as a “page” at our local library. At that time, the overdue fine for adult books was ten cents/day and two cents/day for children’s books. A patron called, enraged, because his son had checked out an adult book and was charged the adult fine for returning the book late. He felt that since a child had checked out the book, he should be charged the rate for a children’s book. The librarian argued with him for a bit and then said, “Sir, you are a loser,” and hung up the phone.

  6. Our community college has a culinary arts program, so every once in a while, one of the cookbooks gets returned in messy condition — not to mention smelly and greasy. Red wine vinegar salad dressing does a real number on paper!

    The funniest encounter I had with someone who didn’t want to pay a fine was a guy who told me his brother would be attending our school the next semester, so couldn’t we just put the money he owed onto his brother’s account? Nice try, pal.

  7. You could argue that the book worked: the person went from being passive-aggressive to openly, page-rippingly aggressive! No more repression here …

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