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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/17/13

   February 23rd, 2013 Brian Herzog

Ebay listing for 1743 MASSACHUSETTS Bay COLONIAL Laws CHARTER American ADULTERY Leather BOSTONThis 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:

Adams 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.

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Reference Question of the Week – 7/22/07

   July 28th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Toys seen on the Antiques RoadshowThis week's question is both humorous and kind of sad.

An older woman walked up the desk, dragging behind her a small boy, and I immediately took them to be a grandmother and a reluctant-to-be-at-the-library grandson. She asked if I could show here where the books on antique toys where.

I walked them over to the 745.1's [?], and as soon as the grandmother saw book spines with titles like "Antique Toys" and "Toy Price Guide," she launched into the following story (paraphrased here down from about a five minute speech):

The reason I'm asking for these books is because I want to teach my grandson not to be so reckless and rough with his toys because he breaks most of them before long and I was watching Antiques Roadshow and a little girl brought in a toy that I had when I was young and it was worth $5,000 and I want to make my grandson read these antique toy books so he'll learn that if he takes care of his toys they may be worth a lot of money some day and I made him watch Antiques Roadshow with me but he was still playing rough so I'm going to make him read these...

And then she leaned down to look at the books on the shelf more closely, at the same time calling to her grandson.

Being a child, he had moved on to other things. As it happened, when we walked up to the shelves, the grandson ended up standing by the 741.5's [?], which are books on comics. By the time his grandmother was done with her speech and wanted him to look at the antique toy books, he was fully engrossed in a Garfield book.

She yanked him over to her, said "thank you" to me, and started pulling books off the shelf. As I walked away, I could hear her saying, "now look in this book for your transformers to see how much they're worth..."

I found this whole exchange kind of funny, in using the future value of a toy to get a child to play gently with it now (I don't think this would have worked on me). But this is also sad, because not only was the kid obviously not enjoying his library experience, but it must also be pretty unhappy not to get to play with your toys the way you want. But I don't have kids, so I certainly can't talk.
antique, antiques, antiques road show, antiques roadshow, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, toy, toys

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