There's only one thing I hate more than getting back a dirty, scratched DVD after lending it to someone...dirty library books. I know this sounds strange, but it's something I've noticed more and more as a mother who brings her 4 year old to the library frequently. People just don't respect books, especially when they're property of the library.
When I take my daughter to the library we peruse the shelves and pick out the most interesting books authored by some of our favorites (always at least one of the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems). We normally leave with 6-8 books for her and one or two for myself that I quickly choose after looking through the new books section. (The adult books are upstairs, and when you have a child with you there's not much time for quality book searching.) I don't normally leaf through the pages before we check out and head home, but I'm starting to wonder if I should.
On many occasions, as we're settling down to read one of our finds on the couch or before nap time, we open the pages of a brand new world of discovery to find food/drink stains or smelly pages. When my daughter asks what's wrong, I remind her that some people just don't respect books as much as we do in our home. We get past it and read ourselves into a story that has her imagining a new world with these amazing characters, though in the back of my mind I can't help but be annoyed.
Why is it okay to damage the property of others? When you're part of a public library you have a world of books at your fingertips, ready to borrow for approximately three weeks and enjoy. But during that three weeks, that book is not actually yours. Someone else will take it out to read and have to deal with your soda spill, pancake syrup, etc.
Some may reply to this post and say, "It's a kids book. Kids are messy." Yes, children are messy and sticky and always snacking. But I have a child. And even at the age of 4 she knows there's no eating or drinking while looking at her books; it doesn't matter if we own them or they're from the library. You treat a book the way it should be treated so you or someone else can enjoy it time and time again.
For all the fines there are for returning a book late or not picking up reserved materials, how about leafing through the books when they're returned and fining for damage?