Transparent Notetaking

I’m currently reading an older book I checked out from the public library that doesn’t appear to have come from someone’s personal library, but it has been marked up by a previous reader who did not then erase the marks before turning it in. I’ve seen this before in other nonfiction books, and it’s historically annoyed me. (I use tiny paperclips to mark up books, and then type up everything into my notes and remove the paperclips before I turn the book back in.)

This time, though, I’m kind of passing judgement on the person’s notes. I’m looking at their coding, and thinking, I would never have highlighted that. It’s just not important. Their notes, barely legible, leave me wondering what kind of student they were.

But at the same time, I’m getting a glimpse into how this person thinks, even if it makes no sense to me whatsoever. You don’t really get that very often…unless you borrow class notes from someone. You can almost put together your own narrative of who this other person is. What are they like (or were they like at the time they read this book)? Why did they read this book? Where were they planning to make use of the information they highlighted? (Given how little sense I’m making of their coding and their notes, I haven’t been able to get too far in answering my questions yet. Perhaps that will change by the time I finish reading the book.)

Not that I’m suddenly going to start leaving tiny paperclips in library books. (I simply don’t have enough to be so irresponsible with them.) Nor am I going to start marking up library books I read. I prefer to be a little mysterious.

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