How to Get Back Books You’ve Loaned Out

Alison Peters

Staff Writer

Alison Peters surrounds herself with books, green things, animals and love. A Creative Writing M.F.A. holder with a day job that shall not be named, Alison is also working on a Masters in Library and Information Science. Currently cohabitating with her partner in the Northernmost outpost of San Francisco’s East Bay, she spends her spare time exercising her big dog so he won’t get annoyed with her, reading everything she can get her hands on, and then writing about it all. If you’re ever interested in discussing Harry Potter, Alison re-reads the series at least once a year, so drop her a line.

This is a subject very dear to my heart, and difficult to write about. I have lots of books, and I love lending them to friends, practicing my to-be-profession of librarian on a small scale. When I can remember, I take pictures of the borrower with the specific book in question – because my lists get lost but pictures last forever, which is, incidentally, how long some people have had my precious paperback friends. (Rarely do I lend hardbacks out. You’ll see why.)

To date I have a list of ten books I’ve loaned out that haven’t made their way back to my stacks – including an entire series I very much want to read through again. I’ve tried gentle voicemails, more pleading emails, quick lol texts, and asides at parties, all to no avail. My books are now officially M.I.A., and extreme measures are my only option for the safe return of my kidnapped companions. Here are a few ideas I thought of putting into action.

Public shaming.

This is a popular tactic lately, used with situations ranging from crazy ladies who drive their cars on sidewalks to avoid school buses, to grandmas stealing from nine-year olds, to dogs doing pretty much what dogs do. This would be a little tricky to execute, as ideally you’d need the borrower to willingly wear the Sign of Shame, but really, a good photo-shopped image would do nicely for the purpose of posting to Facebook, forwarding to all your email contacts, and, naturally, posting to your website. In this case, my sign would read: I borrowed all of Alison’s Her Royal Spyness Series and have not given a single book back. I am a bad book friend.

 Dispatch the Book Police with an APB.

I imagine the Book Police as something like Draco & Co.’s Hogwarts Inquisitorial Squad with Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton as Chief Enforcer. Once you’ve exhausted all other forms of communication and have a book that’s been missing for more than 30 days, call up the Book Police and put out an All Points Bulletin on their asses.

 Steal all their belongings till your book is returned.

This is my emotional response to someone hoarding my books. Get together a crew of trusted friends and caper-heist your way into their home (rappelling if necessary), steal ALL THEIR STUFF, and hold it hostage till your books are safely back home where they belong. You can also mix in a little of #1 (public shaming) to put their stuff on internet blast, so they know just who’s behind the dastardly deed.

WANTED pictures.

Grab the worst picture you’ve ever taken of the thief, blow it up and post WANTED pictures at bookstores and on all social media (heck – even update your profile picture to really make a statement!) like Jerry’s bounced check on Seinfeld. This tactic might include bribing your local librarian or bookstore owners to not sell/lend any more books to this person till yours are safely returned. I say if you’ve got that kind of sway, use it.

Spoil their book fun.

This is perhaps the most evil tactic at your disposal, because it’s so easy and so cruel all at once. Find out what your book thief is currently reading, then SPOIL the plot for them. You can accomplish this the hard way, by reading the book really quickly yourself, or just by doing a quick Google to get the details from GoodReads, Wikipedia, or any online book retailer. But it can be fun too. Ask your friends to join in! Have them drop spoilers into random conversation, just when the thief is least expecting it. This can also work with tv shows your friend is currently bingeing and/or behind on, movies they’re about to see, and sports finals they taped for later. Bonus points if you can spoil an entire series! Here are a few websites to get you started.

Please do share your ideas, particularly those that worked and got your books back. I’d hate to have to resort to felony acts, or spoiling.


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