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 français.  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.