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




Fictional Books, And Where To Put Them IRL

   January 18th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Sterling's Good book coverLast month, the Huffington Post linked to a story on Flavorwire about books that originally started as an element of a fictional story, but then were later published as a real book.

I know that sounds a little confusing, but I did recognize most of them*. For the most part, books like this are fiction, and libraries shelve them as such. As the article mentioned though, television shows have also spawned real-life books - Richard Castle's books, from Castle.

However, one of these books recently(ish) caused a bit of a debate in my library - Roger Sterling's character from Mad Men wrote a book titled Sterling's Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man. The points of the debate were these:

  • Since this book is "by" a fictional character, should it be shelved as fiction?
  • Since it is about the character that wrote it, should it be in autobiography/biography?
  • Since the topic is business advice written by a successful businessman, should this be shelved with the business books?
  • Since this is derived from a television show, should it be shelved in the television section?
  • Since it is humorous, should it be shelved in the humor section?

We ultimately chose the last option, and shelved it at 818.6 (which was also the C-I-P suggestion). According to WorldCat, that seemed to be the most common Dewey number, but not the only one:

  • Hamilton/Wenham (MA) Public Library: 659.10207
  • Greenwich (CT) Library: 659.1
  • Syosset (NY) Public Library: 817.54
  • New York Public Library: 818.5402
  • Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library: 818.602
  • Greene County (OH) Public Library: 791.457
  • Anderson (IN) Public Library: 817

And those were just the libraries on the first few WorldCat results pages that were using Dewey.

But you know, within this genre, I'd actually like for Dewey to write his own book.

 


*My favorite book-within-a-book is the Books of Bokonon, from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. It never fully made it to real book status, but it has come close.



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Seeding Book Displays

   December 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Book display missing one bookOne question I get asked all the time, by patrons who were attracted by one of our book displays and then spent a few minutes looking at all the books, is, "can these books be checked out?"

The answer is of course yes (that's why we put them on display). I don't actually mind answering the question, but any time I'm repeatedly asked the same question, I think there has got to be a better way to communicate the answer.

Signs are always the first option, but signs can go wrong quickly.

Then it struck me to use the same trick that restaurateurs and buskers use - you know when you see a tip jar with money already in it, you're more likely to put some in yourself versus a jar with nothing in it?

To translate this theory to book displays, we could start using dollar bills as bookmarks in display books, but I thought a better idea would be to always leave one of the display stands empty. It's subtle and non-verbal, but if someone sees that someone else has already checked out one of the books from the display, it might communicate to them that it's okay for them to check one out, too. Which is what we want them to know, especially if no staff person is around for them to ask.

I did this on all the displays around the Reference desk last week, and I'm waiting to see if anyone asks about checking out a display book. Usually it happens a couple times a week - so far so good.

What do other people do to let patrons know it's okay to check out display books?



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Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

   December 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Festivus PoleDo you know what I enjoy more than telling people where the bathroom is? Shopping.

In case anyone is pestering you for gift ideas, they could read How To Get Good Gifts for Librarians, or use the links below to find something for the librarian in their life.

And finally, the Washington Post's fiction critic picks special gifts for the book lover (via LISNews):



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Judging Book Covers

   September 23rd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Book Title Fail - How to raise your daughter without reading a bookWith the demise of Bloglines, I've been going through all the posts I had bookmarked and pulling out the ones I wanted to mention in a post - this is one of those posts.

Something I really like about feed aggregators is that, by reading feeds from a wide variety of sources, it is possible to spot coincidental trends (which I like doing). For instance, a couple weeks ago I noticed a few of posts all about book covers:

Of course, this isn't a new trend - Awful Library Books has been around awhile, and I've talked about book covers, too.

And speaking of book covers, remember to play with LibraryThing's CoverGuess, to help build a database that can answer questions like, "well, I don't remember the title, but it was a red book, and had like this guy on a street with maybe like a purple penguin?"

Update: I forgot to include my two biggest book cover pet peeves:

  • Covers where the author's name is bigger than the title
  • Cook books where the chef (usually a celebrity) is more prominently-featured than the food

Those to things always make me suspicious.



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Ahmadinejad Classification System

   August 26th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I recently noticed in our Reference collection one of the quirks of the Dewey Decimal System that people often refer to as "serendipitous" - but look at the picture below to see if you also see a problem:

Ahmadinejad Classification System

The books that caught my eye are these (biggify the photo to see the Dewey numbers):

And here's the Dewey breakdown:

809 - History, description, critical appraisal of more than two literatures
809.91-.92 - Literature displaying specific qualities and elements
809.933 - Literature dealing with specific themes and subjects

I didn't see .927 described in either DDC21 or DDC22, but it was the call number specified in that book's CIP data (©1987), so it must have been phased out long ago.

And so, I get that these books are each about specific kinds of literature. But come on - a book about the Holocaust shelved between two books about imaginary things? It really is like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other fool Holocaust deniers got into OCLC and caused this to happen - a cataloger sleeper cell.

I'm going to talk with my Head of Technical Services to see how we can fix this.



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Kate Spade Book Bags

   August 17th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Kate Spade Book-of-the-Month-Club ClutchI am not what someone might call fashionable, so thanks to Liz for pointing out the next fashion accessory - Kate Spade "Book of the Month" clutches.

Kate Spade? A clutch? These parts of the phrase were mysteries, but the book element interested me. Once a month, they'll release little purse things designed to look like books. So, for just $325, people can look like they're carrying a book with them, but actually are not (as opposed to making your own book safe for free out of an actual book).

But this does puzzle me: if the point is to look fashionable, wouldn't it make more sense to make a clutch that looks like an iPad or Kindle? Or maybe retrointellectuaistas just have far better fashion taste than I. Well, yes, of course they do. It is creative and well-done, but I still need to cue Flight of the Conchords:

I might sound critical, but you know if they designed a man-purse based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I would want it.



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