Please do not bite the books
December 5, 2017 11:17 PM   Subscribe

‘Please do not bite the books’ and other comical library rules. (Martin Lewis, Te Papa Blog)
Would you walk into a library with a dirty face? Take a bite out of one of the books? Or LIE to the librarian?

Librarian Martin Lewis (@rarebookguy) reveals comical library rules from history and shares his five commandments to ensure happy books and librarians.
Also: 9 Very Specific Rules From Real Libraries (John Brandon, Mental Floss)
We've all seen signs banning cell phones, food, and drinks. But these rules cover issues that might not be common to all libraries.
posted by Start with Dessert (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Take a bite out of one of the books?

I saw someone do this to a magazine in the periodicals section once. I notified the staff.

Fortunately, the library where this happened now has its own social worker on staff, so there's at least a chance a future occurrence could end in a positive outcome, maybe, one hopes.
posted by zachlipton at 11:25 PM on December 5, 2017

Enjoyed this, can add to some of it:

#4 in the first link - crossing out repealed legislation is not just common but practically a full-time job for some people (maybe not so much now that the electronic version of legislation is the definitive one)

#8 in the second: could be so the library can keep stats on which books are being used? Which would help with their collection evaluation.
#7 in the second: the incredulous tone sorta suggests the author doesn't realise that homeless people use the library, including for washing.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:23 AM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually, quite a few of these rules - particularly those in the first link's top clipping - seem to boil down to "no homeless people".
posted by Paul Slade at 1:34 AM on December 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I checked out volume one of the comic book Chew recently and it appeared to have a few tiny bites taken out of the cover. I support that particular rule.
posted by mattamatic at 3:03 AM on December 6, 2017

Yeah, these lists aren't really that funny if you've ever worked in a public library. Signs I would like to make include:
- Poop goes in the toilet, not anywhere else.
- Urine also goes in the toilet.
- Masturbation is not an appropriate activity for the library. Please keep your genitals covered, unless you are using the toilet.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:14 AM on December 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

Had someone bite the information desk once. A rather diminutive person came up, asked a question, and while I was finding the answer, just sort of leaned forward and rested the top row of her teeth on the edge of the desk. Asked her to stop, it was distracting.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:39 AM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not bite marks, exactly, but when I worked in an academic library, we had to periodically cycle through all our texts and erase all the pencilled marginalia from note-takers. I once encountered a particular page in Newton's Principia which had hearts drawn all along the edges (in pen), what appeared to be both red wine *and* coffee stains, and, square in the middle of the figure illustrating Proposition 43, a giant smudgy lipstick kiss.

I mean, it is a pretty elegant derivation, but please, patrons, comport yourselves.
posted by halation at 5:02 AM on December 6, 2017 [20 favorites]

For those who missed the discussion last week, there's also a very specific rule at the Macalester College Library.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:02 AM on December 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine worked in a bookstore where the staff had to ask The Book-Licker to quit it or purchase the books he licked. (Not licking a fingertip to page through: licking the book)
posted by gladly at 5:49 AM on December 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think "No smallpox in the library" is an entirely reasonable rule.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

Actually, quite a few of these rules - particularly those in the first link's top clipping - seem to boil down to "no homeless people".

I feel like there's a balance that libraries must have to strike here. Libraries weren't designed to serve as a safety net for the homeless mentally ill, but they've become part of it through the abandonment of other social services. When one small set of patrons can become an impediment to serving other patrons, how do you negotiate that?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:29 AM on December 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Telling lies to librarians should be a hanging offense. Stop muddying the information flow!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:54 AM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I liked this article but something that caught my eye - in the posted article under Remove sticky notes (better yet, DON’T use them) there is a link to this article on sticky notes and archives from the Smithsonian Institution Archives that's pretty interesting. In my academic years I was terrible for this. But I changed my ways! Honest!
posted by Ashwagandha at 7:33 AM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a one year old. There's nothing comical about "Please do not bite the books." It strikes me as a perfectly ordinary and sensible rule for a library to have. Indeed on first reading the headline, I assumed they were referring to the children's book section.

The bindings are especially attractive to her.

The part about not bringing in outside smallpox actually seems pretty reasonable too.

posted by Naberius at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2017

My library recently made the newswire after informing patrons they could not pay their fines with Chuck E Cheese tokens.

But ever since the sponsorship and the new skee-ball ramp, we're relaxed the policy somewhat.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2017

One of my favorite things is singing "EVVVV'RYBODY must wear shoooeeees" in a Bob Dylan voice at the children in the Early Literacy Area, which I am sharing here because the babies don't get the joke. (It's less funny when I have to ask adults.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2017

"Don't let the cat in" (in case you missed it)
posted by achrise at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

The part about not bringing in outside smallpox actually seems pretty reasonable too.

I mean, unless you're USAMRIID's library of pathogens. Then, yes, they should have smallpox in there, and if you have extra smallpox, you should probably give it to them to hold on to.

But other libraries should not have smallpox.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:07 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I worked in a museum a few years ago, and was tasked with undoing the deeds of a rogue curator. He had taken everything he'd found interesting, put it all into high density shelving, and then left it with no record of what was where. I got to spend the most fascinating summer digging through all 1500 artifacts and finding the most off the wall things. Stamps from the Third Reich? Check. A collection of volunteer and organizing materials from the 1984 Olympics? Check. A combat worn WWI gas mask? Check. And to top it all off, the collection was spotted with snarky notes and commentary from said curator. One said, verbatim, "I found this in drw 34. A watch must have been stored in it. This watch is now at (other museum). Would they want this too? Ugh."

Anyway, my point is that rules are just as important for staff to follow as for the patrons.

I've got some cool as hell photos from back then that I should really put into a blog or something...
posted by holmesian at 12:55 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Gaaaah, the photos of the sticky notes in the books made my shoulders go up around my ears. Don't DO that, people. And if you MUST use a sticky note or two, TAKE THEM OUT YOURSELF before you return the book. (But really, don't use them. They are bad for the books.)
posted by sarcasticah at 3:14 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

These libraries have nothing on the Library and Archives of Canada's list of rules. They included such things as:
-- no hand cream
-- no pens
-- no putting documents on the floor
-- no standing on tables
and then backed those rules up with the threat of criminal penalties for breaking some of them.

It made going there seem extra super awesome!
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 PM on December 6, 2017

I work in the Special Collections department of the Toronto Reference Library; we have a lot of similar rules (no pens, no food or drink, no personal items on the tables, no flash photography). I admit that it's not the most welcoming environment, to walk in and have to be told all of the many, many things you are not allowed to do, but (like Library and Archives Canada) we have books, maps, ephemera and manuscripts that are hundreds of years old (and in some cases have a monetary worth of tens of thousands of dollars) and they have to be protected. I know everyone here is an exemplary library patron, but believe me when I say that if these rules were not in place people would be coming in here with hot fudge sundaes and propping their muddy boots up on the tables.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:15 AM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, I'm not complaining. I was serious when I said extra super awesome, not sarcastic. My trip to LAC to view the secret files was the highlight of my government internship.

It was actually pretty entertaining to read the rules and see how they obviously came to be. Like, first there's a rule explaining how you may photograph documents yourself. Then there's a rule explaining how much it costs to get the staff to take a larger format copy of a map or something if you can't photograph it yourself. Then there's a rule that you may not put documents on the floor -- obviously people were trying to get around paying the large format fee by getting a larger field of view for their camera. And then there's another rule about not standing on the tables, which suggests that they'd found an alternate approach to field of view that still kept the documents on the tables.

And then there were the criminal provisions, which really had more to do with violating the classification of the documents than wearing hand cream.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

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