Sunday, 10 December 2006, 21:39:38 EST

One of the most vivid memories as a child is of sitting in the library at Cedar Grove Elementary, in Fairburn, GA, listening to the librarian tell us how to treat books. I was probably in kindergarten at the time. She told us to treat books with respect, and not to dog ear the pages or other such atrocities. Sure, she was probably just trying to convince us grubby little kids not to destroy the books because the school couldn't afford to buy new ones all the time; but, it is something that has stayed with me. It makes me cringe when I see someone writing in a book, folding its pages or covers back on themselves, and, in general, treating them like a newspaper or comic book. It's why I don't loan out my books to just anyone. Even when I do, I do so hesitantly. Because, who knows what could happen to the book once it leaves my sight? All sorts of disastrous things are possible.

I was just thinking about one of the classes being offered next semester — Introduction to Numerical Methods. One of my classmates is signed up to take the course, and I know that they will be using the same book as when I took the course last spring. It occurred to me to offer him my book on loan; it's a rather expensive book. Then I remembered flipping through his Ordinary Differential Equations book last week. It had folded pages, and he had been writing in it. Remembering that, I decided no, I will not offer him the book.