Library books defaced

To the editor:

On Saturday, March 8, a book was returned to the Saranac Lake Free Library. That in and of itself was not an unusual occurrence; in fact, during the month of February, more than 4,600 items were circulated from our library. What made the return of this particular book unusual is that it had been defaced. Someone had taken the time to use an ink pen and a black marker to cross out various words and phrases in the book.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time in the last few weeks that the staff has discovered a returned book so defaced.

In the first case, the book had been circulated at least six times. It was returned with 29 words or phrases crossed out. In the second case, the book had been circulated at least 29 times. It was returned defaced in seven different places.

When someone decides that he/she is going to deface a library book by crossing out a word or phrase in the book, he/she sets a number of events in motion.

Once the defacement has been discovered by the library staff, we have no choice but to remove the book from the collection.

In both cases mentioned above, the books were good circulators, and so the library will replace them. That costs money. The books will have to be repurchased and reprocessed. That also costs time – time the staff could use to help other patrons, provide needed services and do the everyday work necessary to keep the library open. These are some of the reasons why the defacing of a library book is a crime in every state in our Union.

Free association libraries and public libraries are sometimes referred to as the People’s College. They are a uniquely American invention. Libraries embody many of our country’s greatest attributes: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, respect of an individual’s intellectual pursuits and respect for personal privacy.

I have no idea who chose to deface our library books. But I’d like them to stop. If an individual finds some words or phrases in a library book objectionable, he/she should speak with me. He/she should not take it upon themselves to deface a book in our collection. We have many different types of books and many different genres here at the Saranac Lake Free Library. I’m sure we can find something that will suit everyone’s reading needs and desires.


Peter Benson, director

Saranac Lake Free Library

Saranac Lake