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


I Don’t Remember Seeing THOSE Before

   April 4th, 2013 Brian Herzog

This is a good post for April Fools week, but I swear it's a real thing.

The photo below shows the "readers advisory" shelves in my library - the books patrons can use to find more books to read. Except, one day, a set of encyclopedias - copyright 1965! - suddenly just appeared on the bottom shelf, and staff have no idea where they came from:

Library shelves with non-library books

Our best guess is a patron brought them in to donate, and when we said no, and our Friends group likewise wouldn't accept them for the booksale, the patron just snuck them into the library anyway and left them on a shelf.

This is especially weird because this particular shelf is not at all near the front door, and no staff saw anyone lugging an entire set of encyclopedias through the library.

But don't get me wrong - we've found far worse things left behind by patrons, so I don't really mind these. It's just, I don't know, odd. Like, the person wanted to donate them to the library, and even after being told the library doesn't want them - copyright 1965! - they sneakily left them there anyway. As if we wouldn't notice. Or as if just by accident some other patron would use them. More likely, the person just no longer wanted to deal with them, and dumped his problem on us instead of take them back home.

Public libraries are endlessly fascinating.



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Traveling, and World Book in Chinese

   April 16th, 2009 Brian Herzog

chinese world book encyclopediaI'm going to Ohio for a week, and so won't be posting for awhile. But here's something:

In preparation for being away, I was trying to clear off my desk at work. A few layers of papers down, I found a scrap with "to blog" ideas scribbled on it. The only one still interesting is that, at the end of last year, our Children's Room purchased the Chinese version of the World Book Encyclopedia.

We have a large Chinese-speaking population, with varying mastery of English, so this will likely be useful to many of our patrons.

But being curious, and lacking a Chinese-speaking staff person, we asked one of the library's regular patrons, originally from Taiwan, to compare a few articles related to China in both editions. Her impression was that, despite the 2007 date on the cover, the information inside seemed to reflect the China of the mid-1980's. This opinion didn't come from an in-depth reading, but she felt that the last 20 years of political change was missing from the Chinese edition.

She also, of course, took great interest in the Taiwan article. Here she felt it was almost identical to the English edition, with only one significant difference. The very end of the article had an extra statement, indicating that Taiwan, as a whole, was looking forward to unification with mainland China.

I would have loved to have this patron (and others) do additional detailed comparisons, but her child was already using one volume to work on her homework, and needed her mother's help. I'm happy this is a resource my library can offer our patrons, and although I'd like to have a better understanding of what patrons are getting out of it, I believe it is playing an important role in our Children's Room.

Have a nice week - I'm off to play with my nieces and nephews.



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