I’ve spent considerable time working in the book stacks over the past year as part of our Genre Project. Part of that project included identifying volumes on the shelves that were in poor condition and withdrawing them from the collection — librarians call that process “weeding”.
Many of the titles I weeded had been read until they were falling apart. They had served their purpose well. But a disturbing number of titles exhibited a characteristic which I call, for lack of another term, “slant”. Whenever I see the spine of the book take the shape of that tell-tale angle, it doesn’t take a CSI team to discover what has happened; the person or persons reading that book have folded the front cover back until it was touching the back cover. Yes, it might have made the book easier to read, but it takes only one reading in such a manner to wreck the binding of a book.
Books have proven themselves to be surprisingly durable little items, lasting a great many years, if not centuries. But they also have their Achilles’ heels, and the mishandling that causes slant is among them. It’s not easy to withdraw and discard volumes which, considering the number of times they circulated, should be in good condition but are not because of misuse. Public libraries loan the items in their collections to the public free of charge. All we ask is that they treat them with respect and return them when they are due. There are times when it appears that may be expecting too much.