To prevent wholesale destruction of library books, mere appeals to decency, idle threats, and biteless barks, will do, and have done no good. There must not only be a law, but some method of enforcement.
Granted that the library cannot maintain a constant guard to see that books are not mutilated. Also granted that officials cannot look through each of the hundred of books before and after they are used in the reading rooms.
But some method of decimation is both practicable and necessary. At irregular regular intervals, certain books, perhaps twenty-five a day, should be inspected before and after use. If during the time they are out, they are found to have been marked, the offender can easily be traced by means of the charge-cards signed before every book is removed.
Once caught, the culprit should be made to replace the book new out of his own pocket. If found guilty again, he should be deprived of the privileges of the library.
One man with the habit could make up approximately one hundred books a year. This means that a very small minority do mark up books at the expense of all the rest. Were these few to be startled out of their semi-consciousness with a threat of real punch, the end of book mutilation would be effected.
House librarians should apply the same solution to their problem of bookmarking. So far they seem not even to have used idle threats, far less to have taken action to protect their meek charges.