Books on display at the Roseau Primary School library
Books on display at the Roseau Primary School library

It intrigued you from the moment your parents brought it home from the store. Cautiously, you ran your fingers along its spine afraid to leave even the smallest mark. As you listened to your parents complain about how much they spent, you vowed to take care of their investment. However, by the end of the school year many text books have been abused, discarded, or lost.

According to Ashma Smith, a Library Assistant at the Public Library in Roseau, students find the oddest use for books, including as a substitution for folders, pillows, and even umbrellas. Smith said that among the worst habits displayed by students include turning down the corners of the pages, underlining and writing in books, and eating while reading.

With proper care and attention, books can be preserved for future use. Smith offers the following tips to students who wish to take care of school textbooks and library books:

•Don't turn down the corner of a page to mark your place. Eventually the edge will tear off and information will be lost. Smith also advises against using pens, pencils, and rulers as bookmarkers as these can damage the book's spine, which holds it together. Instead, she encourages students to create their own bookmarks with paper.

•Don't put an open book face down on the ground. Use a bookmark.

•Keep your books in a dry, safe place at home; this could include a bookshelf or draw. The dining table is not a safe place.

•Tell an adult if there is a torn page. They can help you to fix it properly.

•Keep your books out of the reach of babies. They can cause damage to books by tearing or marking pages. Keep your books out of the reach of pets. They can cause damage by chewing off pages.

•Don't read and eat at the same time. This will attract, rodents, ants, etc to your books which could be damaging.

•Wash and dry hands before you begin to read. Put your books in a plastic bag when carrying it outside.

•Don't use books as an umbrella. Turn pages from the top rather than the bottom. This will prevent tearing.

•Do not use your book as a sleeping pill. If you fall asleep while reading you may cause damage to the book during the course of your sleep.

•Don't carry paper or objects in your books. This can cause damage to a book's spine.

Meanwhile, according to the Trinidadian government website students should refrain from taking out their books while traveling on buses or taxis as they can be easily forgotten. The website also advises students to use jacket protectors or clear plastic covers which protect books from dust, bad weather, water, and other elements.

Among its recommendations are placing a few whole cloves in the corners of bookshelves to prevent mildew. It states that books are best stored vertically on shelves without backboards which allow air to circulate. Shelves should be away from sunlight, warmth, and moisture. If a shelf is not available, books should be stored upright in a box. Books should also not be wrapped in newspapers as these are very acidic.

"These days your schoolbooks are precious commodities. Every year they are becoming more and more expensive. Some consumers are forced to purchase used books because they simple cannot afford to buy new ones. It is therefore important for children to take better care of their books so that they will last longer and can also be utilized by other children in the family," the website states.