Friday, July 25, 2014

Patron feedback.

"Wow, when you leave this job, you could be a social worker."

You know you're a librarian when... #2 online dating site asks for six things you could never do without, and one of your answers is interlibrary loan.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Do you have a garbage can?

We had a presenter come for Summer Reading today.  She did an incredible job.  She is a scientist and the published author of several books - so, we're talking about a pretty damn intelligent woman here.

Then, she puts a bunch of garbage into the recycle bin.

Okay.  Blue rectangular bin full of paper.  Identical to the one to the right, except, with a liner bag, and about half full of paper.  Take a look at this recycle bin.  Notice its shape, and its blue coloring.  Picture it, filled with paper.  Notice the way it does not look like a garbage can.

This happens all the time!  Patrons say, "I'm gonna put this in the garbage" and then throw it into the recycling.  And we have to fish it out and put it in the actual garbage.  And it's not like we have the recycle bin proudly on display in an area where a garbage can should go.  I'm surprised it's even visible from beyond the desk.

The Point:  This is something patrons do that I will never understand, and it is infuriating.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

AV purchasing.

Yesterday I bought 179 DVDs for the library.

Every summer I buy a couple lots on eBay - one of children's DVDs, and one of normal DVDs.  I'm completely buying them blind.  There's no list of what's in the lot.  Sometimes you can figure it out by pictures, but more often than not, those pictures are hard to see or don't zoom in.  So you spend a fifth of your remaining AV budget and cross your fingers.

I've found that the majority of the DVDs that come are usable.  I'm expecting to put 170 of the 179 on the shelves.  (The others will be either too violent or too sexual.)  I've never had one come that skipped or was damaged.  And my patrons are thrilled to see new (to them) movies available.  And I'm really happy to see DVDs taking up the space where the VHS tapes are now, to see those moving on.

That said, it is a little scary to have spent so much money and not know what's coming.  Cross your fingers for me!

Internal debate.

There's one book (actually, an audiobook) on the return cart.  I'm working alone.  If I get down to the end of the day, and there's still only one book there, do I:

  • Put it away:  I'm nice, I want to leave an empty cart for my coworker on Monday.
  • Leave it there:  Why should I put a single book away?  Better to let it get put away with the next full batch.

I suppose it's just laziness, but it's a question I face every time I work alone.  Is this really worth it?  If I were working Monday morning, I'd leave that book for my next large batch of returned books.  Why do something different because it's not me, but her?

Yeah, yeah, I'll put it away.  Jeez.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Do you have any information about my relative who lived here before Vermont was even a state?

Today I met the 8th-great grandson of Roger Enos, founder of Enosburg Falls.  He was on a trip with his family, and they were heading up to Canada before returning to their native Kansas, so he thought he'd stop by the library and see if there was any information about his 8th-great grandfather.

This was so exciting!  I am not kidding when I say it was a bit like meeting a celebrity.  He even wore a t-shirt advertising the 1990 Enos Family Reunion!  He and his family asked for books where his forebearer might be mentioned, although they didn't have time to really pore through them, and then asked for advice on where else they might go in town to see some local history.

This happens a lot:  people come in, or call, wanting to hunt down ancestors.  We're fortunate to have a good Vermont section (although it may border on a Vermont hoard), and in particular a lot of books about local towns and villages.  People are often disappointed that we don't have birth and death records - there was a fire at some point, from what I understand - but we give them what we can, and it usually catches their interest.

I've found, however, that I'm really at a disadvantage, only having lived here three years.  If you say "Oh yeah, he lived in the old Benoit house," I don't know which house that is.  If you want to know which of Enosburg's six or seven small cemeteries your ancestor is most likely to be buried in, I can't help you.  I can't tell you whether the falls I'm thinking of are the Enosburg Falls.

I really need to do a better job of educating myself about the town.  Some of it will come with time, I guess, but I could be working harder about it, too.  In the meantime, I have the Historical Society's information constantly accessible, know the names of all the town's churches, and can give directions to just about anywhere you want to go.  It works pretty well, for now.

You know you're a librarian when... #1

... you write, in all seriousness, "New books are kept separate from the general population...".

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I don't need it anymore.

Just, quickly, and I think I speak for just about every librarian on the planet here:  Don't request an interlibrary loan and then decide you don't want it.

Interlibrary loans:

  • take quite a bit of effort and paperwork
  • sometimes require sending multiple requests over a series of several days
  • sometimes require in-depth communication with other librarians
  • cost us and the other library money
  • are a way that we present ourselves to other libraries - mishandling an ILL can make us look bad
Today someone came in and said he "didn't need" the ILL anymore because he was going on vacation.  That's the way they always say it.  "I don't need it anymore."

This had been one of the hard ones, with rerequests and talking to a few different people at the other library, and finally today I heard back that the book was available and waiting for pick-up... and I had to email her back and tell her our patron didn't want it anymore, sorry for all the trouble.


If you aren't going to "need" the book because you're going on vacation, don't request it a week before you leave!  We're very clear that the books can take a while to come in.

Just, keep this in mind:  Interlibrary loan isn't something to be taken lightly.  It is a privilege.  Treat it as such.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do you have any books on burying your own dead?

It couldn't have been more than a month after I started working here, at my very first library job, when I received what is to date the strangest request of my library career.

When the man called, he asked for me specifically.  This was a little strange, because I hadn't been there long enough to make that sort of connection with any patrons.  But he had decided he wanted to talk to the director, and found out my name, and here we were.

"Uh, yes, I'm looking for books about, you know, burying your own dead."

Yeah, so this freaked me out.  I'm picturing him out in his backyard with a shovel, you know?  But I am the director of the library, and I hold an advanced degree, and I am a professional, and I had to play it cool.  So I told him I'd do a little research and call him back.

It turns out this is a thing:  Green Burials.  The website even has a recommended reading list, and two of the books on that list were available through DOLCat.  I was able to call the man back, tell him the titles I could get, and also give him the link to the website so he could check it out.

I guess the thing to keep in mind is, what people read is extremely personal.  There's a reason librarians are obsessed with privacy, and this guy is the embodiment of that reason.  Since then, I've ILLed books that I was embarrassed about wanting - I've even borrowed books that I've picked up at other libraries rather than having mailed to us, because I didn't want my coworkers seeing what I'm reading.  But lately I've gotten more okay with it.  Our job is not to judge.  Our job is to provide people with the information they need.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Do you have any French picture books?

Today a young girl - a summer person - asked for picture books en fran├žais.  Of course we don't have any, but we really should, considering how close we are to the border, and how close we are to the lake.  I decided to buy us a few, just enough that there's something familiar on hand for a child who doesn't read in English.

I looked in a variety of places online, most notably and European Schoolbooks Limited.  My process for this type of book order is this:  Keep two windows open.  On one window, have the search page for BibzII, our book vendor.  On the other, have the information for the book I'm looking for.  From there I copy-paste the ISBN from the information page onto the search page.

Anyway, I did this for a while.  I found a lot of books that looked good on European Schoolbooks, looked them up on Amazon, copied the ISBNs, searched for the books in BibzII, and got messages back saying no results found.  After about six tries I hipped to the fact that I probably wasn't going to find any of the books I was looking for.  But I also hipped to something else.

French ISBN-10s start with 2!!!

This is huge!!!  This means that ISBNs are not arbitrary!  I mean, I always thought 978 meant Yo this is a book, but further than that I thought the numbers were just numbers.  This means that we're saying Yo this is a book and it's written in English/published in America and then even more!  Amazing.  Absolutely amazing.

So here's what Wikipedia says.  (I know, not a reliable source, but reliable enough, in this case.)  Take a book with the ISBN 9780793837687.
  • 978 (or 979, although I've never seen it) - An ISBN-13 starts with a GS1 prefix.  GS1 is an international standardization company.
  • 07 - The registration group element, which indicates a language-sharing country group, individual country, or territory.
  • 9383 - The registrant element, which is assigned by the publisher.
  • 768 - The publication element, which is title information.
  • and 7, the check digit.
Also from Wikipedia:

I guess I should have known an ISBN was more than just arbitrary numbers, and I'd daydreamed on and off about how they were assigned*, but this realization that they're assigned regionally absolutely delighted me.

I wonder what exciting discovery will be next!

*Because librarians daydream about ISBNs.