June 8th, 2013 Brian Herzog
I'm not exactly sure why this question stuck out in my mind this week, but it did.
One of our regular patrons is a man with special needs who LOVES horror stories, superheros, movies, television, and reading. He's either in the library or calls every day, and generally all of his questions revolve around the above topics. So, it was slightly unusual one day when he called and asked,
Can you find me Stephen King's email address? I thought of a horror story about the Red Sox I want to tell him so he can write a story about it.
A perfectly reasonable request, and I actually became a little curious about what kind of horror could involve a baseball team.
Generally for these kind of celebrity-contact questions, I always turn to our copy of The Celebrity Black Book, but since I was on the phone I just did a web search.
StephenKing.com was rightly the first search result, and I clicked into the Contact Us form to see if it had an option for submitting story ideas. Not too surprisingly, the form made it clear that it did not go to Stephen King. Then I noticed an FAQ link in the site's navigation bar, so I tried that.
One FAQ was "What is your email address?" which, again, was unsurprising in that it said Stephen King has no public email address (but did refer people to the message boards, which he does apparently follow).
A little lower on the page was the question, "Do you accept story ideas," which was answered,
No, I don't. I really have enough story ideas of my own. Every now and then somebody will advance a concept the way that my foreign rights agent, Ralph Vicinanza suggested wouldn't it be fun to do a modern-day serial story. The result of that was The Green Mile which was published in installments-these little paperback books--but he never suggested what sort of story I might have written in installments and I wouldn't have accepted it if he had done that. I believe in thinking up my own ideas. I really have enough. I really think if I have two or three ideas ahead I'm in totally great shape.
I paraphrased this for my patron, which he seemed to readily accept (and that was surprising) and hung up. Later in the day I did check The Celebrity Black Book, and it does include Stephen King's agent. I briefly weighed the idea of providing this to my patron the next time I saw him, because that's what librarians do, right? Birddog the information through whatever resources possible until we can provide the patron with an answer.
In the end though, I decided against giving the patron the agent's contact info - although the patron asked contact information, the actual answer to his question is that Stephen King does not accept story ideas. Getting in touch with the agent wouldn't have done any good, and so I would have essentially been providing the wrong answer, or misinformation, to the patron. This is kind of an oddly fine line, but it gave me something to think about this week.
This particular patron has written a few stories of his own in the past, so I encouraged him to do it again. And if he does, I'll help him post it to the message board.
But the fact that Stephen King doesn't accept story ideas got me thinking. I remember from high school that Weird Al Yankovic also does not accept song ideas, with the reason given being "legal reasons" (which I've always thought meant he didn't want to get into a royalties fight with someone who thought Al was making a lot of money off an idea a they submitted). But it makes sense that prolifically-creative people have no shortage of their own ideas, and prefer to grow them into a work following their own process. I've never looked into this, but it got me wondering if any famous creator does openly accept fan submissions, and then grow them into a finished work. Has anyone heard of this happening?
February 23rd, 2013 Brian Herzog
This isn't a reference question, but I think it is by far the most interesting email the library received this week. The message below was sent to my Director, and was then forwarded to our cataloger and me to look into:
Subject: former(?) Rare Chelmsford Library Book 1743 MASSACHUSETTS Bay COLONIAL Laws
Hello, I noticed this rare book for sale on ebay and an image shows an ownership label of your library. I'm not interested in buying it, just wanted to bring it to your attention in case this rare item had been removed from your collection. No response needed to me.
Wow. We checked out the ebay listing for this book, and sure enough, the inside cover has a old Chelmsford Library bookplate:
None of us ever recalled seeing this book in the collection, or even anything remotely like it. We have lots of old historical and vital records, but none leather-bound or particularly valuable.
There was no record in the catalog for this item at our library (although a nearby library does have it) - which means this item could have been weeded and discarded, sold as a fundraiser, or stolen by fiends any time in the last 100+ years.
Since we have no way to know, there's nothing we can do. I do occasionally hear about stolen library books being sold at auction (or worse, maps or color plates cut out of library books), but in this case I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. It is an interesting situation though. If anyone would like to purchase it and donate it to the library, please let me know.
January 30th, 2013 Brian Herzog
My library recently updated our policy for patrons replacing lost or damaged items.
The problem that arose is that patrons would check out a book (say, a non-fiction book that was five years old, with a price in the record of $30) - then they'd lose it, and eventually they'd get a bill for $30. Our previous policy said patrons could replace lost/damaged items either by paying for it or by supplying another copy of the book.
This meant that, instead of paying the $30, patrons would often find used copies of the item online, for just a few dollars, and give that to us as a replacement copy.
The problem was that often these books were in terrible condition (sometimes even discarded from another library, with their stamps and stickers still on it). Not to mention that there would often be newer versions of this item available, which we would want to get instead of the old outdated one.
So, we updated our policy to be:
Lost/Damaged item fees
- NO REPLACEMENTS ACCEPTED FOR BOOKS
- Book or magazine - patron is charged 100% of the full price
- DVD, music CD, or videogame - replacement allowed only if it is new and still sealed in the original package, otherwise the charge is the same as books, 100% of full price.
- Book on CD - $10 per CD (if the entire item is lost, then 100% of full price.)
- Playaway, CD-ROM, kit - 100% of full price
- Lost CD or DVD insert - $2
- Lost CD or DVD case - $2 (so lost case & insert is $4)
- Still not sure what to charge? Call tech svcs
What to say when patrons ask...
Why can’t the library accept replacements for lost or damaged books anymore?
There are several reasons:
- Many of the replacements we’ve been getting are used items in poor condition.
- Replacing the exact same isbn can mean getting an old edition of a book when a newer edition is available.
- In some cases, we don’t wish to replace the lost item, and would rather use the fee to buy something new that we need for our collection now.
Why does a replacement DVD, music CD or videogame have to be new & still sealed in the package?
- For similar reasons – we’ve received old and/or used items to replace things we wouldn’t have bothered to replace at all.
Why is the replacement cost 100% of the full price? I can get it for less than that on Amazon!
- True, but sometimes the items you get from Amazon are old and used, and you might not even realize it till it arrives.
- Also keep in mind that when we replace a book or other item, it involves staff time to get the new item, catalog it, and process it to go into circulation.
This all happened a couple months ago. Then just a couple weeks ago, we received the following note from a patron:
My favorite part is that she drew a picture of an open book on her note. Since the replacement copy she supplied was a brand new copy, and this title is still on the school's summer reading list, we just kept it.
Tags: book, Books, damage, damaged, item, items, libraries, Library, lost, policy, public, replacement
January 16th, 2013 Brian Herzog
A 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.
Mr. Larry Perras
Library Distribution Manager
5600 E. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90022
Mr. Perras' email is address is firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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:
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 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:
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.