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

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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9 Responses to “I Don’t Remember Seeing THOSE Before”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Better to have things come than go. Some evil-minded person just stole one of our handicap door buttons. Grrr.

  2. Jessica Says:

    I really, really, really, really approve of the prominent display of Women’s Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests, by Jessica Zellers.

    –Jessica Zellers

  3. Mary H. White Says:

    Maybe you can send them to the Scientology folks, as payback!:
    Mr. Larry Perras
    Library Distribution Manager
    Bridge Publications
    5600 E. Olympic Blvd.
    Los Angeles, California 90022
    (323) 888-6200

  4. Jen Says:

    Why not offer them up for a craft project to anyone who would want them? I’ve seen hollowed out books to store things in and I have also seen book purses made from old books. You can enter the search terms ‘purse made from old book’ and see examples and instructions for the book purses. Since you have a whole set, you might even make a library contest out of it. Just offer one up to whoever would like to try and have them drop off their craft projects at the library at a designated time. Have the patrons vote on the best one and award a prize. You might even see if you can auction them off on ebay and donate the proceeds to a local charity for some community goodwill.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. Person thought, “Look at all this empty shelf space. Perfect spot for me to donate my crusty old encyclopedia set.”

  6. Kathy Says:

    Better than having a whole encyclopedia set (the most recent year) get stolen. Nobody saw the thief lugging an entire set of encyclopedias out of the library here, either.

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jennifer: a button? Ha, now that is original (and, I’m guessing, expensive to replace).

    @Jen: our teen librarian does that sometimes with old books. These are probably a little bit too big for a useful purse – maybe more like a small thin briefcase.

    @Jessica: thanks – I think they sort of get rotated, but yes, I agree.

    @Mary: ha, classic. I wonder what they’d do with unsolicited donations.

    @Kathy: Sounds like an inside job to me! Actually, we had a computer stolen without any staff noticing someone walking out with a huge CPU unit. Speaking of not seeing large objects, we also found a large pizza box hidden in the stacks – now how’d they carry that in with no one noticing?

  8. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    @Kathy: Check Craigslist. That’s where ours ended up when it got stolen. We even managed to talk the local police into staging a sting and getting the whole set back.

    Honestly, who steals from librarians and then posts the evidence of the crime on the internet? That’s like stealing the hubcaps off the Batmobile and then trying to hide out in the Batcave.

  9. Emma Says:

    Mary H. White, I love that idea!