Saturday, June 28, 2008

Miss Information is annoyed by nostalgia

Although Miss Information has a history degree, she doesn’t actually find the past all that interesting—unpleasant diseases, unreliable drinking water, no e-mail. Ick. But some people can’t seem to let go of the good old days.

Today Miss Information has had her fill of those people. The first guy wanted some kind of encyclopedia of nuts. He knew the author and title so it was a simple matter of checking the catalogue and letting him know that the book was not at this library. The man protested. He knew the library owned the book. He had taken the book out before—about 5 years ago.

Miss Information is sorry but 5 years is a long time in the life of library books. She offers to have the book brought in from another branch but the man says no. It turns out that he lives clear on the other side of town and came all this way to get the book. Miss Information mentions that the library has a telephone and unless he really enjoys a completely pointless scavenger hunt now and then, he should have phoned ahead.

Later that day the phone rings. A guy on the phone wants a book. He knows the library has it. Sadly, he knows very little about the book besides that. Title? Nope. Might have had the word “mechanics” in it though. Author? Uh-uh. Didn’t make a note of that. Anything that might help? Well, he took it out before, so he knows it’s in the library. Miss Information does a search using key words like “mechanics” and “analytical” which may or may not have been in the title. This results in nothing useful. Well maybe it was “classical” not “analytical”. Miss Information still can’t find the book he is looking for. When did he read it? Oh, about 5 years ago. Miss Information narrows the search down to the years between 1995-2005. Still nothing. The man thinks some more and lets her know that the book was probably published in the eighties. Oh, and it had a pink cover.

Miss Information tries to interest the man in other books, she checks the shelf and finds him a lovely book published in this century with a black cover. But no. He needs that pink book.

Miss Information suggests he check the library’s online catalogue which has pictures of book jackets and find his pink book that way. She urges the rest of the world to stop living in the past. 350,000 books published each year--time to move on people.

9 Comments:

At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Phantom Midge said...

Yes, I think this is the same guy (oh, sorry...PATRON) who came in to our branch and wanted to now read the book he happened to spot across the row from where he was standing...last month.

Nope, can't remember the title or author and is a little vague on the subject...maybe something about pirates? It was a slim volume, does that help? It does not.

Again, like you, I tried to find a suitable substitute but he left unhappily. Probably going off to find the real librarian who knows every book ever published...

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Josh said...

When I used to work at Barnes & Noble (not the same, I realize) customers would come in likewise, not knowing the exact title or author, but remembering the color of the book.

Perhaps there should be some kind of search field in catalogs where you can type in the color of the book cover, no?

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger JamiSings said...

I was actually trying to find a book I started reading as a child in my classroom then never got to finish cause the teacher threw it away. I found out Amazon has a power search that helps you narrow down by plot and publication that's actually better then library search engines. I found the book thanks to a reference librarian and finally I know how The Pushcart War ends.

We should so have our search engines for the library designed by the same folks who did Amazon.com's.

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Ms. Quarter said...

I worked at the university bookstore when I was in college. While easier than a library, I imagine, what with all the books arranged personally for each student by class list, I still got a lot of the same stupid questions you just blogged about.

A lot of times I dealt with the, "You're out of the book I need, it wasn't by my class section," only to point to the stack of those same books on the shelf below in another section for the same class.

I wanted to tell them to use their eyeballs but I was too busy rolling my own.

 
At 5:28 PM, OpenID grayjaydeb said...

I think perhaps that a "Field Guide of Books" be published just for this purpose. It should be indexed by format (hardcover, paperback), size of book (including length, width, and height), color of cover, pictures on cover, color of title text... I'm sure we could add other indexes...

Many years ago, when I worked in a school library, I took over the position from the school secretary who had been in charge of the library for almost 25 years. She and her husband, the art teacher, had all the picture books sorted by size and color.

It was amazing how surprised the teachers were, when I explained that I had rearranged them so that they were in order by author, and they might want to try looking for the books themselves...

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has a pink cover.

Please don't hate me!

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Misanthropina said...

O Miss Information: I once proposed that we have a drinking game where every time someone mentioned the colour of a book, we all got a drink, and every time someone described the picture on the front cover of the book, we closed the library early and all went and got shit-faced. Alas, our livers voted us down. Still, I have to admit that there was a time when students would come in and ask for "the operating systems book with the dinosaur on the front" and I actually knew the call number by heart...

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Misanthropina said...

O Miss Information: I once proposed that we have a drinking game where every time someone mentioned the colour of a book, we all got a drink, and every time someone described the picture on the front cover of the book, we closed the library early and all went and got shit-faced. Alas, our livers voted us down. Still, I have to admit that there was a time when students would come in and ask for "the operating systems book with the dinosaur on the front" and I actually knew the call number by heart...

 
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