Friday, January 30, 2009

7 Quick Takes - Library Edition

Once again, I'm joining Jennifer for 7 Quick Takes on Friday:

1) There are some mysteries of human behavior that will probably never be solved. For example, judging by the number of times the topic crops up in the works of Miss Manners, scientists have yet to discover why a sizable number of people are afraid to use the fancy guest towels in their host's bathroom. Similarly, I've yet to figure out why so many patrons of the public library, people who probably leave their towels on the bathroom floor, feel such a compulsion to return books to the library shelves when they have no idea where they belong. These patron-shelved books are easy to spot because they've usually been placed on the shelf either upside down or backwards (i.e. with the pages facing out).

2) This problem is especially acute in the children's section, but I harbor no ill-will against the perpetrators because I'm so glad to see kids using and enjoying the books. However, this past week as I was sitting on the floor reordering a lower shelf that was hopelessly mixed up, a very small Asian boy toddled up to me with a picture book and asked "Where this go?"

"May I put it away for you?" I asked politely, curbing the urge to hug him in gratitude. His eyes widened and a delighted grin split his face as he handed me his book. A little while later he returned with a slightly larger boy in tow who also had a book needing to be shelved. I thanked them gravely.

Oh, mothers, unless your infant prodigy knows the Dewey Decimal system, please teach them that when they've finished looking at a book, they should simply leave it on one of the tables for us to reshelve. It's so much easier for us library aides to put books directly where they belong rather than to have to weed them out of the wrong places while we're trying to shelve other books.

3) One thing that's really struck me while working in the children's section is how much more fantasy there is now than when I was a kid. I seem to recall its being rather rare in those days, so my hunger for fantasy was usually fed with fairy tales, mythology and folk tales. But the shelves are awash with it now, much of it in trilogies or even longer series. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from acting the old curmudgeon, "Ah, you youngsters don't know how easy you have it nowadays . . .

(Historical note: I know that The Hobbit had already been published before I was born, but I don't think I ran into it until at least the 6th or 7th grade -- and that was only by round-about chance. I was reading an anthology of supposedly humorous stories, and the only good selection in it was the riddle chapter from The Hobbit. So naturally I had to track down the complete book. Interestingly, the anthology had the original version of "Riddles In the Dark." The copy of The Hobbit in our local public library had the revised chapter which Tolkien prepared after writing The Lord of the Rings. The Narnia books were also in our library during that period, but I never deigned to read them. Why? I thought the titles sounded stupid. Ah, youth!)

4) It's also interesting to see which authors which I read and enjoyed when I was a kid are still on the shelves. (I'm not talking about big names like Laura Ingalls Wilder or Beverly Cleary. Just favorite authors whose books happened to cross my path when I was young.) I'm pleased to see that Noel Streatfeild's "Shoe" books are still being read. I was not surprised to see at least some Carol Ryrie Brink since she won the Newberry for Caddie Woodlawn. However, they don't have Baby Island which I would dearly love to read again. (I haven't seen a copy in almost forty years!) I am delighted that Mara Daughter of the Nile is still on the shelves, but The Lost Queen of Egypt is not. In fact, getting a used copy online would run me at least a hundred dollars! Sigh.

5) The big excitement at our library lately was the recent discovery that someone was checking out our new books with a stolen library card and selling them on eBay. However, thanks to his invincible ignorance of how libraries work, he was tracked down and caught. The moral is: Don't mess around with librarians. They have powers far beyond those of mortal men! (Even if we don't wear capes and spandex.)

6) Some people might think that a four hour stretch of shelving books would be boring. But I love my job! It allows me to become more closely acquainted with the collection than I might otherwise be. Whenever I see a book that looks interesting, I sneak it onto the bottom shelf of my bookcart so that when I've gone off duty, I can examine it more closely and decide whether I want to check it out. (I am very scrupulous about not reading blurbs while I'm on the clock.) Consequently, my check-outs mirror whatever section I've been assigned that week. Here are a few of the library books I've recently borrowed:

Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear.

Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, interviews selected and edited by Karen Wilken. (The interviews are from various sources and date from 1973 to 1999. Includes illos from Gorey's books and copious notes.)

Down a Sunny Dirt Road: An Autobiography by Stan & Jan Berenstain. (The creators of the popular Berenstain Bears books write alternating chapters describing their early lives and fine arts training. I hadn't realized they already had a flourishing career as cartoonists and authors long before they started writing their books about the Bear family. They also describe how, with the sometimes dubious help of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess), they got into the children's book business. )

7) One of the perks of working in the library: you get an advance peek at the donations that come in. Donated books are sold by the Friends of the Library. I bought a stack of nearly new children's books last week for about 25 cents each.


Sara said...

thank you. that dr. seuss book looks very interesting, and a quick online search shows that my library has it in! something else for me to check out this week. :)

Sherwood said...

Heh! Enjoyed that.

(And yes, when people have super fancy little guest towels, I tend to use the sides of my skirt or pants because it's been drummed into me to leave a bathroom without any sign that you've been there.)

a square peg (amy) said...

I don't work in a library (though I think it may perhaps be my ideal job), but books out of place always irritate me, and when I see one, I try to put it in the proper slot. Someone might be looking for that book...

Enbrethiliel said...


I had a part-time job in my uni library. It was probably the most fun work I've ever done in my life.

You should write a book about these experiences, Bibliophagist! Libraries everywhere would definitely carry it. ;)

mrsdarwin said...

I never read the Shoes books (though I distinctly remember seeing them at the library when I was a young thing) but we did recently watch, and enjoy, the new movie of Ballet Shoes with Emma Watson. The dance-obsessed females here gave it two thumbs up, and even the parental units watched it more than once. (It has a brief cameo from Harriet Walter, who played Harriet Vane in the 80s Lord Peter mysteries.)

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

#6 - Who could think that that would be boring? Hours spent shelving books sounds wonderful to me. The only problem is that it would take me twice as long as it should because I'd have to stop and flip through them all. :)

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