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

Archives for Books:

Stopping Unsolicited Scientology Books

   January 16th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Scientology books in my libraryA couple weeks ago, my library received the latest shipment of free Scientology books, and I'm guessing your library did too. On the whole, we never want these books, and rarely do they make it to our shelves (or even out of the boxes they came in).

So I was happy to see a post on the Maine Libraries listserv the following week (from Mamie Anthoine Ney of the Southern Maine Library District) detailing an email exchange she had with the company that sends them out. She asked them to stop sending them to her site, and this is the response she received:

Dear Ms Ney,

Thank you for message alerting me to this situation.

I have taken your address off the mailing list.

If you have not been able to send the books back yet, let me know the correct address, contact name and number and I can have my shipping department get FedEx to pick them up.

The books are very valuable and I do not want them to go to waste.

I will pick these up right away if you have not been able to arrange this.

Best regards,

Mr. Larry Perras
Library Distribution Manager
Bridge Publications
5600 E. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90022
(323) 888-6200

Mr. Perras' email is address is [email protected] and he is the person to contact if you'd like your library to stop getting these boxes of books. I forwarded this to my library's Head of Technical Services, and she was only too happy to email them to take us off the list (although we never got a reply from them).

Thank you Mamie for sharing this information - hopefully it will keep more of these books from ending up in dumpsters.

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Reference Question of the Week – 10/21/12

   October 27th, 2012 Brian Herzog

You know serendipity can be a subtle but major influence on how people find things in libraries? Here's a situation where serendipity backfired.

A patron came up to the desk and asked if we had any books on how family members can cope with someone who has a drug and alcohol addiction. I brought her to a catalog workstation and did a simple book search for "alcohol addiction" - the second result was:

MVLC result for "I hope they serve beer in hell" by Max tucker


The patron didn't comment on it, and I quickly pressed on to find useful resources for her. I have no idea what her situation was, but still, I felt like an ass. Oh well.

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Great Job Opening: Head of Reader Services

   September 5th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Recommended Reads signThere are two job openings at my library right now: Head of Reader Services and Circulation Desk Manager.

The Circ Desk Manager will do all the circ staff scheduling, work at the desk, but also manage ILL, book club kits, museum passes, and hopefully be the lead on our Evergreen ILS.

That's all well and good, but just look at the description for the Head of Readers Services:

Do you love answering that age-old question "Can you recommend a good book?" When you sit on an airplane do you find yourself giving unsolicited reading advice to the person beside you? Do you always have a book in your car for emergencies? Are you up on the latest reading devices, social media, book blogs, websites? Do you love to talk about books, write about books, listen to books? Did you go to library school because you love to read?

How about that?

Our Head of Circulation is leaving, and instead of just hiring a straight up replacement for her, we decided to split the position to create two jobs (because the work was more than one person could handle anyway). This new Head of Readers Services will focus completely on encouraging and supporting the use of our entire collection (books, audiobooks, DVDs, etc), through social media, programs, desk coverage, a personal shopper-like reading suggestion service, and anything else we can do.

We're accepting resumes now, so check out the job listing. The Circulation Desk Manager hasn't been posted yet, but should be soon on the Massachusetts Library Job Board. General employment information is also on our website (and I still like my unofficial rules for resumes, too).

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Reference Question of the Week – 8/19/12

   August 25th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Chinese I love youWhen I came back from lunch one day, a patron was waiting for me - she wanted to play an audiobook on her Kindle.

That struck me as odd, and I wasn't even sure if it was possible, so I asked a few follow-up questions to make sure we both understood what was going on.

It turns out, she had the ebook Dreaming in Chinese already on her Kindle. However, it included a lot of Chinese words, both in Chinese characters and in the English-letter spelling. She didn't speak Chinese, and didn't know how to pronounce those words, so she wanted an audiobook version in order to hear how those words were pronounced.

That's understandable, but I still didn't know if Kindles could play audiobooks. I asked her if she knew, and at that point she pulled out an iPod, so we were in business.

But not for long. I searched our Overdrive catalog for Dreaming in Chinese, but it didn't come up - neither audiobook nor ebook. Which surprised me, until she told me the ebook copy she had wasn't a library copy, but one she purchased from Amazon.

Since it wasn't available in Overdrive, and she wasn't adverse to purchasing it, we searched Amazon for the audio version - but still no luck. I didn't even see this title available as a book on CD, so I guess it just isn't available as an audiobook. She was disappointed.

Kindle text-to-speech menuBefore we gave up, the last idea I had was to see if we could get Kindle's text-to-speech function working with this book. I've never tried it before on a Kindle, and I think it doesn't work for all ebooks, but it was worth a shot.

Surprisingly, text-to-speech wasn't difficult to find in the Kindle's menus, even though neither of us had used it before. We got it to start playing her book, then waited for a Chinese word in the text.

But again, the victory was short-lived. When Kindle got to a Chinese word, it skipped right over the Chinese characters, and pronounced the English-letter word as if it were an English word - I don't speak Chinese, but even I could tell it couldn't possibly be close to the proper pronunciation.

The patron was disappointed, but I think she appreciated that we pretty much exhausted all our options. The only other thing I could suggest is finding a Chinese person to read those words for her - she didn't like the idea because it'd be awkward to try to read the context at the same time, which is true.

I felt bad that I couldn't find what she wanted, but I think she left knowing more than she did when she came in.

Book Covers and Bathing Suits

   August 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog

As seen on BoingBoing, the website http://matchbook.nu matches up bathing suits with book covers - pretty convincingly, I might add. A few of my favorites:

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and suit

The book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The first sentence:"All this happened, more or less."
The cover designer: Carin Goldberg
The bikini: Kudeta Bikini. $45.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and suit

The book: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The first sentence: "My suffering left me sad and gloomy."
The bathing suit: Men's Swimming Trunks by EUROPANN. $49.


However, one it missed was for ebooks - generic, nondescript, uniform:

Kindle bathing suit

The book: The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
The first sentence: “I do not wish to remember these things.”
The cover designer: Amazon
The bathing suit: Submarine One-Piece Swimsuit from Anthropologie. $278.

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My Childhood Summer Reading Logs

   June 20th, 2012 Brian Herzog

With summer reading programs in full swing, I thought this was appropriate. While cleaning my old stuff out of my parents' house, I came across some of my childhood summer reading logs. They're from the Sandusky (OH) Library from the late seventies - I was born in 1974, so these show what was shaping my mind when I was three and four years old (click through to zoom in):

Summer Reading Log 1977

Summer Reading Log 1978

Summer Reading Certificate 1978

Summer Reading Certificate 1980

Yay for the Sandusky Library, and for my parents. I hope everyone is enjoying summer reading - it sticks.

Incidentally, I found a couple other interesting things at my parents house too.

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