It is sad to read how much of our stock is unavailable to new library users, either seriously overdue (and unlikely to come back) or simply 'Lost or Stolen'.
South Wales Echo 6th Aug 2010
The glib answer is that people have forgotten what libraries really are - the whole idea of 'borrowing and returning' (i.e. sharing) perhaps so out of date in a world where people like 'owning' things.
With houses, perhaps the illusion that you 'own' it makes you feel secure, but with a book you will never read twice, it seems folly to clutter that very house up with stuff that needs dusting.
Libraries have tried Amnesties (they don't really work) and a few years ago even tried a 'recovery firm' which threatened people with fines, loss of credit rating, etc - and we recovered a large amount of stock (and got some fines paid off, too) but that seems like a guaranteed way of losing our friendly image.
That very 'friendly and tolerant' image, however, makes us a target for amateur and professional thieves - as shop-lifting here is so much less dangerous than in a big store. And in the past people taken to court have been found not guilty when they claimed they intended to return the stock, had forgotten to put it on their card, etc.
I suspect that 'educating the public' into these old socialist ways (sharing, access to tools for the poor, etc) might prove very difficult, but perhaps the Green argument might eventually prevail.
Buy reference books, and things you might need for some time, borrow material you only wish to use once.