Let's face it, some of the people who borrow books from the Library are not responsible. They treat our books like they treat people -- badly. Notice I said "some people" not "everyone" or "many" or "a lot" of people. There are certain people who were not taught respect for themselves or others, for their own things, or those things which belong to others. The vast majority of people are responsible.
If it can happen to a book, it will. Instead of ‘fessing up to the condition, books compromised by various benign and toxic substances, these irresponsible people will deny they damaged anything and drop the book in the book drop, to land on top of and be buried by other returned materials. For those who have cleared a book drop after a long weekend, finding little surprises can wrinkle the nose and turn the stomach.
On the flip side, many people will come in and give us the book damaged by their undisciplined pets or children, or husband, or whatever. Willingness to pay for, or replace, the material brings a smile to our collective faces. Primarily, because they want to fix a mistake, but mainly because we won't be blind-sided by something we have to wear gloves and a mask to touch.
How bad is the damage? Is it water damage? From a glass or a toilet, or a puddle in the gutter? Coffee, tea, milk, Bourbon or beer? What does it smell like? Did they bring it in a plastic bag?
Did they return most of the book while keeping only that part they have determined nobody else in the whole world needs, only them? Have the considerately highlighted or underlined significant sections to draw attention to that section for everyone? Have the annotated? Adding salient points the author obviously missed?
Did their baby use it as a chew toy? or their dog? Llama? Did it stay in the bathroom too long? or get lost in the barn? Was it subjected to a High School Chemistry class experiment? Perhaps read by a shade-tree mechanic who forgot to wash?
We can go on for a long time. Let's not give anyone further creative ideas.
What do we do with compromised books? Ninety-nine percent of the time we make the book go away, regardless of whether it can be replaced. It cannot go back on the shelf. At SPL we have a professional term which perfectly describes many of the compromised books: "Icky."
For those titles which can be replaced, they should be replaced. Currently, it is difficult to replace a title if it is no longer in print, or available from the publisher. Other factors come into play which will be discussed later, such as IBL and ILL (Inter-branch loan and Interlibrary loan), or how difficult it is to locate the title from another source.
Libraries are designed to be used responsibly. We cannot control the behavior of everyone who uses the Library. We can control whether someone, who has given evidence of irresponsible behavior, has permission to use the Library.
Gerald F. Ward