What's the appropriate verb to describe the action the librarian does when you borrow a book at the library, something like hand or give?


8 Answers 8


You borrow a book at the library. The librarian issues a book.

2 issue
transitive verb
2a : to put forth or distribute usually officially
Examples of ISSUE
Each employee will be issued an identification card.
The Post Office will issue a new first-class stamp.
The company plans to raise money by issuing more stock.
The bank will be issuing a new credit card.
the bank's newly issued credit card.
The king issued a decree forbidding all protests.
A severe storm warning has been issued.
The police have issued a warrant for her arrest.

[Edit-1: Per @Mustafa & @sidewaysmilk]
Lend is the usual alternative, esp. in the US.

  • 2
    In the USA, the borrower borrows and the library lends. Jan 20, 2012 at 3:20
  • Interesting. I would like to know if in the US, the library records a specific book as LENT or ISSUED? Is the status of a book after you borrow it, set to LENT or ISSUED?
    – Kris
    Jan 20, 2012 at 4:07
  • 3
    Status - Checked Out. (I'm a professional librarian)
    – MattMcA
    Jan 20, 2012 at 4:19
  • 1
    I object. "Lend" is more appropriate than "issue." Issue does not imply that the object issued is to be returned; lend does. Jan 20, 2012 at 6:50
  • @sidewaysmilk Possible. However, it's more of a matter of convention adopted within the library domain, along with geographical differences, than the lexical meaning of the words.
    – Kris
    Jan 20, 2012 at 6:57

Library / librarian may lend and/or issue books.

lend: to permit the use of (something) with the expectation of return of the same or an equivalent.

issue: the act of sending or giving out something; supply; delivery

  • 7
    The usage I've always heard when speaking of the library, i.e. the institution, is "lends" or "loans": "The library loans the patron a book." I'm not so sure about terminology for the librarian, i.e. the person.
    – Jay
    Jan 19, 2012 at 15:39
  • "Loan" is not a verb.
    – livresque
    Jul 11, 2014 at 6:38

In libraries where I've worked in the UK, the librarian issues books.

  • In most libraries I've been to in the UK, the borrower selects a book from a shelf, then takes it either to a librarian or a machine which "issues" it. Having said that anything which is loaned, sold, or given, can at some point be said to have been "issued". The verb "to issue" relates more to the immediate process of passing something over from one to another than to the contractual status of what is taking place - i.e. lending, selling or giving.
    – WS2
    Jun 12, 2018 at 22:38

From my decade of experience as a librarian, I would say that in most libraries, the librarian does not check out books. That job is usually done by a library clerk... But maybe I'm being facetious.

In the US, we often use 'loan'. The books is on loan. Request an inter-library loan... The library loaned the book to the patron.

Anyway, the librarian (or whoever) does not loan the book. The librarian doesn't own the book. The Library loan/lends the book. The librarian checks the book out.

Or 'The library clerk scanned the barcode on the inside front cover of the book, tore off the return slip from the receipt printer, demagnified the security strip and slid the books back across the counter.' Because, you know, that's actually what happens.

  • So, how to resolve the issue at hand?
    – Kris
    Jan 20, 2012 at 8:52
  • Check out. Also, at many libraries, the Circulation Desk is also known as the Check Out Desk. It's not graceful English, but it's the truth.
    – MattMcA
    Jan 20, 2012 at 15:04
  • Matt, I know. That was a pun on issue. :)
    – Kris
    Jan 20, 2012 at 15:06
  • @Kris - if it is those sort of books, I think "buy" may be a better choice. Or "Laminate". Feb 16, 2012 at 11:02
  • @SchroedingersCat lol
    – Kris
    Feb 16, 2012 at 11:07

Not issue. Issue has a connotation of the thing(s) being issued being newly created for that purpose. Similarly, reissue usually means "release more copies of the the same thing", not e.g. "reship".

I would use check out. Check out is ambiguous in that both the patron and the librarian can be said to check out the book, but nevertheless is the verb most commonly used by librarians, AFAICT. In this context, it would probably be used as "check out [the book] to [the patron]".

I'm in the USA.


Library books are borrowed and lent in the US, parking tickets are issued; indeed issue has an immediate negative connotation (politicians tangle with issues), and libraries are a nonjudgemental, demos-affirming institution. Library cards are issued, books are borrowed - issuance is more official than lend, and lacks the one quality of borrowing - the explicit right of return.

Government Issue (G.I.) is a term which describes the assignment by the military of personal effects, clothing, weapons, tools etc to the individual without relinquishing ownership.


If it is the process of organisig for a person to borrow a book, issue is the right answer in the UK as per @Pitarau. Then the book is "on loan" to the borrower.

The action whereby the potential borrower identifies, has issued, and then takes the book away, eventually returning it is a "loan". This is a far wider process.

When a borrower has some books they wish to borrow, they may ask if they can take them out. At which point, they will hopefully be issued, assuming that the borrower is allowed to do this.

It is all a bit of a labyrinth.


I would agree with the "Issue" suggestions if the context is to describe from a "process view" the act of a hypothetical librarian fulfilling her role in providing books to members.

However, I would also say that if the goal is to describe a librarian as a character in a novel or story, or as a real person in an article, then the setting and the personality of the librarian come into play. I can only imagine the most severe, stoic, librarian "issuing" a book while I could see, again based on personality and setting, the book being "slid across the counter", "tossed", "dropped into waiting hands", "pressed into hands" etc.

Update: On further thought I am thinking my answer belongs more on the Writers site. ;-)

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