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How to borrow a pen from the library staff

Isaac Morrison answers one very specific stationary etiquette question.

Illustration by Monica Renn.
Illustration by Monica Renn.

1. Locate the library help desk. (Hint: This is on your left as you enter the library.)

2. Cautiously approach the help desk in a manner that suggests you are a polite and not self-entitled individual.

3. Choose a library staff member who is currently unoccupied.

4. Get their attention. This is usually done by saying “Um… Excuse me.” (Hot tip: speak in a soft, yet audible, voice with a polite intonation. Eye-contact is all but essential.)

5. Ask for a pen.

6. Take the pen offered. IMPORTANT NOTE: They may try to throw you off by asking whether you would like a pen or a pencil. If this, or something like this, occurs, it is important that you remain calm. Resist the rising tide of panic and do not run away. State your preference in clear and simple English (in this case, we assume it is for a pen, seeing as you are reading ‘How to borrow a pen’ [How to borrow a pencil will be covered in a future week]). Words to the effect of “Pen, please,” are recommended.

7. Remember to say thank you.

Optional: Some experts suggest you should reassure the library staff member of your intention to return the pen. However, evidence for this is not supported in the literature. (See, for example, Gibson J, “I thought I packed one this morning”: Etiquette, procedure and rules of pen-borrowing, 3rd ed., [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013] pp 244 – 259).