Se habla deBrits

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Jun 30, 2011, 10:21am

Spotted this on the Guardian website today:
and read a bit more here
Living rather far away from Sutton I wondered if other Brits had experience of this and how it worked in practice and how successful it was.

Jul 1, 2011, 8:04am

That's interesting - thanks for flagging it up. Big Society?? Adrian Short is a deal more relaxed about lending his books than I am. Just the thought of it gives me the shudders. I'd be like Psychoville's mad librarian climbing in windows to reclaim the unreturned copy of 50 Great Walks in the Lake District, Vol.2. I suppose I could get over that with therapy ;-)

I pass through Wimbledon station (in the adjoining borough of Merton) from time to time and have seen notices on one of the platform waiting rooms advertising book swopping shelves therin. I'll have to get out and have a look one day.

Jul 1, 2011, 9:31am


I agree. It isn't just the getting the book back, it is getting it back in good shape. I have lent books to friends in the past - but I know who they are, I know they aren't book manglers.

I know that it is still early days but when you hit "Find Books" on the Sutton BookShare webpage without entering search terms you get results back - presumably all the books in the scheme. Not very many at all - with an extremely large chunk being Adrian Short's own books.

Having got some results back, I was then able to construct searches which should return results. It appears that there is no search by author name. Just partial title searches.

Also there seems to be no indication of format. Maybe I want to borrow a paperback and not a hardcover OR I want to borrow large print.

Admittedly I haven't joined (as I don't live near Sutton) and haven't experienced all the features - like tracking how long a book has been loaned out for, or 'watching' a book to see when it becomes available for loan again but I feel it is still feature poor (and we will ignore the scalability issues) for the reported investment by NESTA.

Jul 1, 2011, 10:52am

#2, 3: I'm not in the area either, but agree with the sentiments. Even this week, in my office we had a discussion that split the department down the middle into spine-crackers and corner-folders on the one side, and book-protectors on the other. I think I'd have a very small subset of my library that I'd be willing to let any-old-mucky-so-and-so get his hands on: stuff that I wouldn't mourn the ruination of. Anything else would go only to well-chosen tidy nonsmoking friends. :^/

Jul 1, 2011, 1:46pm

Adrian Short questions Amanda Craig's view "that books are far too precious to lend," arguing that books "don’t do any good sitting on your shelves." It all depends what he means by doing no good. Whether they hide hideous wallpaper or are there for instant reference, whether they form part of a colour-coordinated decorative scheme or are there as inanimate friends, I would argue that my books (and I suspect many other bibliophiles) do sit there doing good; we're not all miserly hoarders, are we, locking them away in the equivalent of a bank vault?

He argues that he offers "things" (books I suppose) to share "because I know that most people are honest and responsible. If you believed otherwise you probably wouldn’t engage in almost any kind of relationship, personal or commercial." I agree that most of our lives are built on trust, but it's not quite the same as assuming that others have the exact same regard for your belongings. I'm assuming he wouldn't say "Help yourself to my car/DVD player/laptop whenever you like," and not just because these items are a lot more expensive.

However, the issue about "stealing from authors" that Amanda Craig mentions I think he generally has right. If I lend a few books to my daughter I don't expect to hand over a fee. Lending your own books is a personal transaction, unlike institutions that buy books specifically to lend out. The issue is potentially a problem if bookshare schemes overtake and overwhelm public libraries but the situation is going to be ongoing and evolving and it is difficult to imagine hard and fast rules being laid down now.

As Short says, "The threat to authors comes largely from other things... YouTube ... Facebook ... computer games..." I draw the line at radio, though, whether internet, digital or FM. I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned the threat from having conversations.

Jul 1, 2011, 7:20pm

I fear that there are people out there who do not view books as I do. In particular, there is the idea that once you have read a book is ceases to be of any value to you - it is ephemeral, like a newspaper, and does not need to be returned. Not so!

I don't really like borrowing books (from individuals, that is, not libraries) as it is too easy to hang on to them. Years ago, I was lent a copy of Lord of the Flies, first edition in pristine d/w. It stayed on my shelves for longer than it should have, but, on a house move, I returned it to the owner. I'm glad I did - I'd have felt guilty otherwise - but I would still like to have it. Probably a four figure price tag for a replacement.

Jul 2, 2011, 4:27pm

As has been said above, I understand the logic of the book lending group, but I can't see the practise of it being at all satisfactory.

Imagine getting one of your beloved books back with crumbs jammed between the pages, right back towards the spine where nothing would move them save tearing a page out. I don't know about you, but it would keep me awake at night (whether or not that is an exaggeration depends very much on the book in question).

Also, I am sure most of us have had that unfortunate experience where we have given a book to a friend to read and never received it back. If friends can do it, why should we expect that people even with the best of first intentions should return every book they borrow?

Like most Big Society ideas it is a case of "Oh doesn't that sound lovely", without being in the least bit workable or fair on anybody.

I'll keep my libraries, ta very much.

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