Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Q & A: How to get a borrowed book back

Q: When you lend out books, how do you make sure they come back?
A: People who borrow books and don’t return them should be shot. But shy of that drastic tactic, there are some more productive things you can try:

  • When you lend a book, set a return date. You can do this very assertively, without sounding worrisome or being a pest. Say something like, “I think you’ll really like this book. It took me about a week to read – do you think you can finish it by, say, next Friday?” (Base the time on your own experiences. Of course, it could take them longer so you should be ready to negotiate a date.)
  • Let them know if someone else wants to borrow it and when they expect to get it. “George wants to read this, too. I said I was letting you borrow it first, but I think he will be ready to read it in two weeks. Do you think I could have it back by (the date)?”
  • Keep a paper inside on which you write the date you expect your book back. Be sure to discuss the date with the other person first. The paper could be a bookplate or inexpensive bookmark (which may also encourage the borrow to not fold down page corners to keep his or her place).
  • As you get close to the return date, check back and see how the borrower is enjoying the book. Ask if he or she is making progress and if the date of return you set will work out. If not, consider extending the date if someone else isn’t waiting for it.
  • Mention another book the borrower might like to read. Ask how he or she is doing with the current borrowed book and say you’d be glad to let him or her borrow the next one after he or she finishes the current one.
  • If the other person is through with the book but hasn’t brought it back to you, take the initiative and drop by to pick it up. Sure, they should take the initiative but if they aren’t getting the book to you, go get it.

These are just a few proactive ways to keep a book coming home. If you have ideas to share, use the “Comments” link below. I’d love to hear them.

Book Club Reading Selection:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (see October 7 entry)

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