Just launched: the SSL <3 Books Project!

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Here at the Bodleian Social Science Library we care about books and we care about improving the experience that we provide for our readers. It is because of this that we are now running the ‘SSL <3 Books Project’.

Did you know that every term at least 250 items are sent for repair? The reasons for this can range from torn and stained pages to deteriorated and disintegrated bindings. On average it takes 22 days for an item to return to circulation once it has been identified as in need of repair and many are so bad that the only option is to withdraw and replace them. Cumulatively in the academic year 2012-13 this led to books being out of circulation for over 5,000 days!

There are lots of reasons to look after Library books and many of them are very simple. One of these comes down to money. Repairing and replacing books is an expensive endeavour. We spend over £2,000 each year on replacement copies of books that could not be repaired, and this has a direct impact on the number of new copies which we are able to purchase. To put it simply, the more money we spend replacing books we already have, the less money we then have to buy copies of new publications.

The spine of this book has completely broken down. It is too damaged for us to repair in house; it must be sent to the bindery.

Another good reason to look after books is a matter of time. We’ve already mentioned that books take a long time to return to circulation while they are being repaired, which means that they are unavailable for readers who may desperately need them. What you probably don’t know, is that in the academic year 2012-13 more than 200 staff hours were spent repairing books in-house! It’s fairly safe to say that those of us lucky enough to be counted among the SSL’s staff have an established love of books, but even we have to admit that time taken to repair books could be better spent making new ones available or helping readers with research enquiries. Looking at it this way, then, taking care of your Library books can lead to staff having more time to help you find new material.

A final very good reason for looking after Library books (though there are many more) relates to borrowing. The Social Science Library is the busiest lending Library in the University of Oxford, but like all lending Libraries we must balance the need to make resources available to readers with the need to build and look after our collection. This is a difficult task which we try our best to achieve, but one that is made more difficult when books become so severely damaged that we cannot repair them. If we cannot repair a book and we do not have enough money to replace it, we have to consider confining it to the Library. This can often be helpful for some readers, but there are many others who enjoy being able to borrow books to read at their leisure. The best way to avoid this dilemma is to look after the books in the first place, ensuring that replacing them is not necessary.

So there are some compelling reasons to look after Library books, but how might we do this? Actually it can be as simple as putting them in a bag to protect them from rain or placing them in a returns box rather than dropping them. Small decisions we make when we handle books can make a big difference in the long run, and good examples of this include deteriorated bindings caused by pressing down on the book’s spine or mouldy books caused by allowing food, drink, and dampness to come into contact with the book.

There are also other things we can do, such as choosing to write notes on a piece of paper and not in the book itself. Though many may think this is helpful for the next reader, what they may not have considered is that they could unknowingly be hampering the development of the next reader’s original thoughts by asserting their own opinions. There are many ways to interpret a text and what may be useful for one person could be representative of a misunderstanding for the next. By refraining from defacing a book you respect not only the book and its author, but also the next person who may wish to read it.

We are sure that you will agree it is important to look after Library books, and invite you not only to come and take a look at the posters displayed in the SSL about our ‘SSL <3 Your Books Project’, but to leave us feedback here on our Blog, or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed. You can find these by following the links below:

https://www.facebook.com/sslbod        https://twitter.com/SSLBod

We even have free bookmarks… See you soon!

Our new 'SSL <3 Books Project' bookmark!