I've hit my second essay panic this term - quite predictably, on my second essay, which along with another essay has to be in next Monday. Given that I've only just started to read up for the first, this is going to be rather close.
Anyway, I've been reading through a book of collected essays on the division between semantics and pragmatics, while researching for an essay on various theories of meaning, and while flicking through the book I noticed that someone had underlined several passages in one essay.
This is not right.
Yes, I accept that the writing was only in pencil, and thus could be erased. I also know that the book is hardback and the paper is of fairly high quality, and thus the writing and subsequent erasing would not destroy the book. But still, why on earth would someone do this rather than take notes? There is no reason whatsoever that you must
underline passages in a book, and that you cannot
complete your essay/research paper/book without doing this.
What makes it more annoying is that this book has the sort of binding that means that it will quite happily lay flat, and the book itself is only four years old. This means that you would have little to no difficulty in persuading the librarians to let you photocopy pages from this book, and then you could annotate those to your heart's content. Heck, since that particular section is less than 10% of the content of the book, the Copyrights Act (or a related act pertaining to copying of copyrighted materials) permits you to photocopy it for your personal use. So why didn't you do this, whoever you were that had the book before me?
The restrictions on photocopying are because this book is in the University Library (also known colloquially as the UL), which is one of the six libraries in the country that gets sent a copy of every book that is published in the UK, and buys a fair amount from other countries as well. (I'm not sure whether it's technically a copyright library or not - the man who explained this at the orientation session I went to implied that it wasn't, but that it and the Bodleian in Oxford are treated as if they were). This means:
(a) There is only one copy of this book in the library. If you annotate it, deface it, or otherwise write in the book, anyone else who wants to read it will have to cope with the results.
(b) These books are supposed to be kept for posterity. In a hundred years, the books we regularly use now will be rare, and the UL wants to hold on to them - and keep them in good condition. What are they going to say when they find this book has been written in?
At least the UL have precautions against this sort of thing: if you damage a book, you pay the full restoration cost. Not so important with a four-year-old book like this, but if you damaged a hundred year old tome...
Okay, that's my rant finished. I also have nothing against people writing in their own books - I did it with my copy of Pride and Prejudice, as it was a set book in one of our English exams - but if there are people lending you books with the assumption that you'll take good care of them, please do.
Actually, the orientation session I went to for the UL did give me some thoughts about becoming a librarian. Nothing definite, of course, but being around books would be quite interesting, and is something I've enjoyed since I was young. Of course, something like this
would be even more fun, but it is alas not possible. Though it would be very enjoyable. (Working for the British Library Special Engineering Force! :)