I think libraries are great. I used to go to Story Hour every summer, walking from my Grandmother’s house on the corner, down the street, through the hedge-lined alleyway, to the library in the west wing of the old Community House to sit in a circle of children. I used to work in the school library, starting in elementary school and continuing through High School. I’d stamp due dates on flyleaves, re-shelve books, and sometimes get to write the Dewey Decimal number on the spine of new books with an electric pen-like device and chalk tape.
But as much as I love libraries, I rarely check out books from them now; I buy my own copy. Why? Because I can’t talk back to library books.
I always read with a pencil in hand. I underline great quotes. I number points in an argument. I may disagree with a big “Who says?” or agree with a double-underlined “Yes!” in the margin. If a passage makes me laugh, a “Ha!” goes there. If I don’t understand something, I write a “?” or even a “Huh?” If I agree with a claim the author is making but he/she fails to explain the point, I respond with a YBH (“Yes, but how?”). I might jot down a cross reference (see also page ___), write the name of another book or character I’m reminded of, or circle a word to look up. I’ll jot major topics or events in the upper corner of a page to make it easier to find passages later (For example: “Mr. Collins proposes” or “Frank Churchill arrives”). I make lists of characters on the inside of the back cover and sometimes even draw a family tree.
Reading, you see, is not just a spectator sport. And libraries don’t look kindly on a person who returns a book they’ve talked back to.