or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



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The World Still Is A Good Place

   February 1st, 2017 Brian Herzog

Last week, someone called the library asking if they could return a book by mail. Of course, we said, that's no problem.

This week, a package arrived with this inside:

How awesome is that? I have no idea if American Airlines, or airlines in general, make this a general practice, or if this Flight Attendant just did it because he felt it was the right thing to do. But it is great, and we appreciate it, and I'm sure the patron* does too.

In any case, I sincerely hope American Airlines reimburses their above-and-beyond Flight Attendant for postage. Thank you very much Tom!

 


*By the way, we looked up who had it checked out and called to let them know their (lost) book was returned, but the phone went right to voicemail. Probably that means they're still on vacation - but now without Rodney Dangerfield to keep them company.



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Display Idea: What Your Neighbor Is Reading

   January 20th, 2017 Brian Herzog

A reader of this blog, from the Wayne County Public Library, sent in a pretty awesome display idea that I wanted to share:

At Wayne County Public Library we have a display by the checkout counter called "What Your Neighbor is Reading." We just place items recently turned in on a cart with a "What Your Neighbor is Reading sign on it that has an image of Wilson (from "Home Improvement") on it. Previously, we used an image of Gladys Kravitz (from "Bewitched"). Our patrons enjoy seeing the pop culture figures and they like the convenience of being able to check books out so close to the register.

How cool is that? Just putting the little local spin on it and identifying them as something their neighbor is interested will definitely draw peoples' attention. Very similar to "Recently Returned" shelves, but more fun.

She also mentioned that they place a colored slip in each of the display books that is removed at checked out, and have a sheet at Circ they use to track stats on displayed items. Another great idea.

I hope you find this as neat as I did and can use it in your library. Thanks, Gigi!



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An Old Solution to a New Problem

   December 8th, 2016 Brian Herzog

One of those on-going discussions in the library world is how to display new books.

Well, new-new books are easy: when something is recently published, it goes in the new book room, or on the new book shelf, for six months or a year or whatever you're library's practice is. And usually, it also gets marked with some kind of sticker so pages know to shelve it as "New" rather than in the regular collection.

The question has been - at least for me - what is the best way to handle books that are not recently-published, but that are still new to the library (and therefore possibly new to our patrons)?

If I missed ordering something when it first came out, and then a patron donates a copy, should it go into the new book room like a new book (even though it's not "new"), or should it just go right into the regular collection (even though people might miss it there)? I've heard arguments both ways on this, but the Jackson (NH) Public Library has a great (and obvious) solution that just never occurred to me.

They do put these old-but-new-to-the-library books into the new book room - and just mark them "NEW-ish." Brilliant.

This labeling lets people know the books aren't just published, but also allows the people who browse the new book room (rather than search the catalog) to easily find them. And that's the important thing.

This might be commonplace in other libraries too, but like I said, it never occurred to me before. Now I just need to convince the staff at my library to go for it. We'll see.

Way to go, staff at the Jackson Library.



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Book Reviews in the Age of Email Leaks

   November 9th, 2016 Brian Herzog

ageofjihadcoverI was reading book reviews while doing selection for our non-fiction collection, and came across one for Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East, by Patrick Cockburn.

After what I read I still couldn't decide whether or not to buy it for the library, so I went out to Amazon to see more information.

The bits of information on Amazon records I always look for are publication date, format, number of review stars, publisher, best seller rank, and also whatever is in the editorial review section.

Often these are blurbs written by (I'm guessing) paid reviewers, but sometimes I recognize names as someone I'd expect to be an authority on the subject. Sometimes they're even full-blow Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, or other review journal reviews.

And sometimes they completely surprise me.

When I looked at this section for Age of Jihad, I found this:

emailleakreview

So is this a thing now? Being mentioned flatteringly in leaked email correspondence is a source of promotional material? Huh - that doesn't seem like the best use of the technology tools we have, but I guess it's the world we live in.

It hadn't occurred to me until I saw this, but I bet a whole bunch of people immediately did Ctrl+F for their name as soon as the text of her emails were released.



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Readalikes for Old Bags.

   June 2nd, 2016 Brian Herzog

Recently one of our patrons submitted a purchase suggestion for a book she saw reviewed in the Boston Globe: Old Bags Taking a Stand, by Faith Baum and Lori Petchers

The patron had also clipped and stapled a little part of the Globe's review, which made it sound interesting enough to investigate further. In cases like this, my first stop is Amazon to see if anyone else has reviewed it.

Now, one of the little games I play when searching - for anything - is to try to type in as few keywords as possible to get the result I want. Known item searches are of course the easiest, and in this case, I just typed "old bags taking" into Amazon's book search - and laughed out loud at the result:

oldbags

Yes, the correct book was listed first, but the second result was what struck me. Little Women? Really, that's the exact opposite of "old bag" in this sense. Amazon, what in your search algorithm matched these two books?

I've showed a couple coworkers this and their search results varied slightly, but Little Women was always on the list. It seems weird, but maybe this is one of those reader preferences computers can identify that people wouldn't - maybe Little Women fans really are the target audience for Old Bags. Hmm.



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Not Your Grandmother’s Acclaimed Urban Fiction

   October 14th, 2015 Brian Herzog

So this happened at my library, and everyone got a good laugh out of it. One day in Tech Services, this array of books was delivered:

Good2Go-books

During the course of processing them to be put out for patrons, one of the Tech Services staff noticed that these books were on the, well, pornographic side.

Fifty Shades of Grey aside, my library generally doesn't buy erotica, so this got staff's attention. The question of "who bought these?" ran up the selector's chain, until they were handed to our fiction selector. She looked at them, and the content, and could not figure why she would have ordered them, or where she would have even seen them.

So she went back through various review sources, and eventually found a two-page spread in the 2015 November issue of Ingram Advance:

Good2Go-spread

I did not know that "Urban Fiction" was a euphemism for erotica. The astonishing thing is that you can read the little descriptions below the books, and not once do they mention sex, strap-ons, or dripping anythings. And yet, flip just a couple pages into any of these titles, and you're already well into NSFW territory.

Of course, titles like The Panty Ripper seem to be a dead giveaway, but I really was surprised that Acclaimed Urban Fiction would be so entirely unlike my idea of what acclaimed urban fiction would be.



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