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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
June 27th, 2015 Brian Herzog
This question actually happened in February - I had forgotten about it, but I think it's still interesting:
A patron called in and asked for the large print edition of There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me. We didn't have that in our catalog, so I checked Amazon, which said it was being published on March 11th (over a month away at the time).
I told him we'd be happy to order the large print edition for him, but then he asked something surprising:
Patron: I've noticed that different publishers have different size large print, and sometimes it's not that much larger than regular print. If it's not going to be much bigger than regular print, then I don't want to wait a whole moth for it. Can you see how big the type will be in that book?
Uhh... that is something I've never been asked before. I have noticed over the years that some "large print" books definitely have larger type than others, but never thought much about it. And certainly have never considered trying to find out how large the print will be before a book is published.
However, being Amazon, they do have the "Look Inside" feature - unfortunately in this case, a message said, "This view is of the Kindle book. A preview of the print book (Hardcover edition) is currently not available."
Well, since size varies by publisher, I offered to go to our large print room and grab some other books also published by Thorndike Press Large Print, and try to describe to him how large the type was. Or pull those as well as a book he'd read recently and relate the size of the two, but the patron felt it wasn't worth it. He said to put him on hold for the regular print copy, and when it came in if it was too small, he'd call back.
He never did, at least not to me, so hopefully he enjoyed the regular print edition comfortably.
After we hung up, I looked a little further and did find some large print publishing standards listed conveniently on Wikipedia:
The National Association for Visually Handicapped (NAVH) provides the NAVH Seal of Approval to commercial publishers for books that meet their large print standards. (Lighthouse International acquired NAVH in 2010).
The standards call for:
- Maximum limits on size, thickness, and weight
- Minimum limits on margins
- Type size at least 16 point, preferably 18 point
- Sans serif or modified serif font recommended
- Adequate letter and word spacing
- Flexible binding recommended to allow open book to lie flat
It's remarkable that I've worked in libraries for almost 15 years now and don't think I've ever seen these standards. I suppose I always knew there must be some, but never went beyond that. And I know the publishers want a balance between the comfort of low-vision readers and keeping printing costs low, but even 16pt seems a little small to me.
However, I suppose this is the single greatest advantage of ereaders - sure they can hold a lot of books, but being able to adjust the type size depending on your reading conditions is something print book just can't do. Large Print audiobooks, though, are a different story.
Tags: font, large print, large type, libraries, Library, point, print, print size, public, Reference Question, size
March 13th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Terry Pratchett died this week, and I, like many people, were saddened.
I came to the Discworld books later in my life, sort of by accident (which is the best way to come across books like the Discworld books), and to say I liked them is an understatement. It was more like the worlds and characters had just been waiting for me and were happy to have me turn up.
It wasn't until later that I realized I had already read some Pratchett, without knowing it. His book, Good Omens, co-written with Neil Gaiman, was another I had inadvertently come to on my own, on the shelf in an independent book shop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I can't say it changed my life, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was also introduced to Neil Gaiman that way. I somehow missed the introduction to Terry Pratchett, but since I got there in the end, I suppose it is okay.
Perhaps because of this, but perhaps also just because they are similar and the connection is logical, I have always linked Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman in my head.
So when I came across the following line while reading Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning today (specifically in the story, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury), I couldn't help but be reminded of Terry Pratchett's death:
I sometimes imagine I would like my ashes to be scattered in a library. But then the librarians would just have to come in early the next morning to sweep them up again, before the people got there.
Very appropriate on many levels, but it also seems that there is hardly a tribute fitting enough for such a creative and prolific writer as Terry Pratchett.
October 31st, 2014 Brian Herzog
One of my coworkers got creative for our Halloween book displays, and I think they look great:
Happy Halloween everyone!
Tags: book, book display, Books, ghost, halloween, holiday, libraries, Library, orange, public, pumpkin, white
September 13th, 2014 Brian Herzog
This whole interaction made me laugh, but I have to call Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn't read Be careful what you wish for by Jeffrey Archer - because this question does reveal the ending (I think).
A patron called in on a cell phone (with driving noises in the background) asking if there's a book after Archer's Be careful what you wish for. While I'm checking our catalog (which has Novelist Select built into the pages to list books in series order) the patron says [and this is the spoiler],
Everybody just blew up and the book ended so there's got to be a sequel.
When I get to the record I tell him it was just released in 2014 and is the fourth book in the series, but the fifth book isn't out yet. The patron's reaction could have caused an accident:
What? You mean they're going to make me wait? I just finished the last CD and I want to find out what happens next!
I couldn't help but laugh. It's honestly a joy to hear someone so into a story.
At least I could tell him book five, Mightier than the Sword, is due out in February 2015. I haven't read any of these, but if this patron is so excited about them I think maybe I should. Any audiobook that caused someone to call the library immediately after the last disc ends has got to be good.