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

Lost Item Replacement Policy, And When To Ignore It

   January 30th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Chewed bookMy 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mention that there would often be newer versions of this item available, which we would want to get instead of the old outdated one.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

  • 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:

Replacement Book Note

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.

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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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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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Book-Related Diversions and Professional Development

   July 18th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Here is an assortment of things people have sent me recently, or just random items from the internet (so I can clear out my "to blog" folder):

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Plans for Building a Big Wooden Book

   April 11th, 2012 Brian Herzog

parade floatA month or so ago, I received an email from another librarian, asking about my library's Fourth of July Parade float she saw on flickr. Some time in the past, someone built us a six foot tall open book, and we repaint the book each year with our float's theme.

Her question was this: could I provide pictures and measurements, so that they could build one for their library too?

I am always happy to share, but it turns out, none of my coworkers could even remember who built the thing, or how long we've had it - so of course, we have no plans or measurements for it. Also of course, being April*, the book is buried in our storage area under all kinds of stuff, so I'm not really able to get it out to take new pictures.

I was able to take some measurements though, so hopefully the sketches below and the photos on flickr are enough if you're interested in building one for your library. Everything is approximate, so don't be afraid to improvise and customize. Oh, and all measurements are in inches, and the bigger version of the sketch is a little more clear.

Measured drawing of a wooden book

A few construction notes:

  • the body of the book itself is hollow (this is the curved cage-looking thing above right); each side is made out of two semi-circles of plywood (one top and one bottom), connected by 1x4s. The length of the 1x4s will depend on how thick your semi-circle plywood is (and how tall you'd like your book to be). Thin sheets of paneling are then bent around the front to form the surface of the "pages"
  • you can't see it in the photos, but the "text block" of the book rest on a little platform, which in turn rest on two 2x4s under the center of the pages, and these are what sit directly on the float. That platform, for some unknown reason, is just a little big narrower than the book itself. I'm not even sure it is strictly necessary, but the 2x4s are
  • the book's "cover" sticks out about 2.5" all the way around the book. I think this was made with scrap wood though, because it's not a single big sheet - rather, it's little pieces sort of nailed on, just to cover up the back of it. We have two big holes in our "cover," so that if we needed to get inside the book we could (though I can't imagine why; Trojan Book?) - again, I think this was mainly due to not having a piece of wood big enough. It does mean, though, that the book looks kind of ugly from behind, so we always try to hide it on the float
  • we have a few eye bolts screwed into the top corners of the book, so that we can tie it down for more security. We also have handles screwed to the back to make it easier to move around (sort of like this)

One nice thing about being a parade float is that, since most people are pretty far away from it, and the float is in motion, no one can see all the flaws: screw heads, chips, random wood nailed on to patch holes, etc. Just make sure the paint looks good, and the book will look very impressive.

The more I look at this, the more confusing it seems - feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.


*I thought this was a great blog post for National Library Week - what better way to celebrate libraries than building a six foot tall wooden book? I guess you could build a six foot tall wooden ereader, but then you'd have to get rid of it the following year and build a new one, because it would no longer be compatible with your float.

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

   February 2nd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Wow, and then there's this video - try to carve 15 minutes out of your day to watch and enjoy:

[video link]

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by Moonbot Studios

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

The only criticism I could make is this: scotch tape?!?!

Thanks for sharing @echoyouback.

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