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

Random Book Rantings [DECKLE EDGE]

   December 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

A few odds and ends for my annual "I'll be in Ohio for a week" post:

Deckle Edged BookBooks with Deckle Edges
Over the last five or six months, it seems Amazon has gone crazy marking books [DECKLE EDGE]. I actually like that type of pages, but it would in no way influence my purchase decision - so does that bit of information really deserve such prominent billing?

It's kind of like how my library includes "Pb" (for paperback) at the end of some of our call numbers, i.e. 822.33/Haml/Pb. In theory it's suppose to help locate the book, because it tells you to look for a paperback, but it usually only confuses patrons because we don't put the "Pb" part on the call tag.

So, my question is the same: is that information actually necessary?

News Stories About Long-Overdue Books
There seems to have been a spate of stories recently (and this year in general) about long-overdue library books finally being returned. I wonder if there really has been an increase in this occurrence If so, why? And why does the public care? I guess it's a little interesting what someone checked out 99 years ago, and that it survived this long, and that the quaint little library fine would have been x-hundred dollars, but the library has graciously waived it.

I wonder what would happen if this happened in my library - I think, nothing. Sure, we'd talk about it, but probably just give it a barcode and put it back on the shelf - or to the book sale. I don't think we'd call the newspaper. Besides, my library doesn't charge overdue fines, so ours would lack the gracious ending.

And with all the attention these people get, do you think anyone right now is deliberately deciding not return a book so they can get their fifteen minutes 50 years from now? It occurred to me that the only reason people know these books were checked out 99 years ago is because the checkout date is stamped in the book. 99 years from now, there will be no more of these human interest stories, because ILS systems don't last that long, and when you switch from one to the other, chances are you lose a lot of historical data like this. Makes you realize that older technologies are actually better at data retention.

Do Nothing But Read Day
I read on LISNews about Do Nothing But Read Day - and happily noted that it (Sunday, Dec. 20th) was the same day I would be on a 17 hour train trip from Boston to Ohio. It doesn't sound like I meet all the requirements, but I'm going to participate in spirit anyway (and tag them on LibraryThing).

I've never taken a cross-country train trip before, and I'm kind of looking forward to it. It's even got a cool name: the Lake Shore Limited. Amtrak offers free wireless, but my emphasis will be on books: printed books, audio books and video books (a.k.a. movies).

I hope you enjoy your holiday season, and I'll be back in a week or so.

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