All Wet: Why We Charge for Water Damage

Getting a book wet may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it is, especially for library materials.

What seems like “just a little” liquid can warp and discolor pages, and even damage the book’s cover. This can make a book hard to read and sometimes even to hold, and irrevocably alters the reading experience for anyone who checks it out later.

Water and liquid damage can also cause books to mildew and mold. When that happens, a book can acquire a noxious odor and may be harmful to be around. Exposure to mold and mold spores can cause respiratory issues and eye irritation.

How do you know if a book has been water damaged? The most obvious way is to examine its cover and pages. Once wet, the pages will often start to warp at the corner, making it difficult for the book to close naturally. Pages may also be discolored. You can also often detect water damage via touch. If a book bends awkwardly in your hand or doesn’t feel right it might have been water damaged.

While you might get your own book wet at home and decide to keep it, even with a few warped pages, consider the experience of the next reader at a library. They don’t know how the book got wet. It just feels gross.

One of the best things about books is they keep us company. When we’re enjoying a cup of coffee or a good meal they make for a delightful guest. Some people even enjoy relaxing in the bath with a book. We understand! We like those things too. However, any activity where you might get your library book wet should be enjoyed with the utmost care. With one false move you could expose a book to water and end up irreparably damaging the tome that’s made your meal or coffee break so enjoyable.  

Library policy is that items must be returned in the same condition as when they were checked out, and all items are checked by hand before being reshelved. If you return a book that’s wet or even been damaged slightly by liquid, there’s a good chance you could end up having to purchase the water damaged item.

Although library staff are vigilant about checking for water damage when items are returned, it’s a good idea to look to see if a book has any water or other damage before you check it out from the library. If you notice something or have questions bring it to the attention of one of our librarians or Circulation Desk staff.