Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day at the library

I don't tell you stories like the following one very often, or maybe at all. They are full of futility, system breakdown, and failure. A mystery is posed that is never answered, with the added insult of it not being a terribly interesting mystery. But things like this happen on a regular basis at the library. And I want you to know some of that full picture.

A woman comes to me while I'm shelving in fiction at my library. "They sent me up here for The Last Juror by Vernon Grisham. Can you help me?"

I say yes, thinking that I can, perhaps happily ignorant of the fact that I will now spend 20 minutes not helping her.

First we establish that The Last Juror is by John, not Vernon Grisham. Then we walk over to the Grisham section of fiction. I could swear it used to be bigger, but there are still 70 books here. The Last Juror is sadly not one of them, or at least it is not there in alphabetical order.

I tell the woman I'll be right back. I walk over to the nearest library catalog.

At this point you should know that my library suffers from a problem common to many larger libraries, everything is far away from everything else. This can be excellent for the count on my pedometer, but it can make episodes like this one time consuming, and it can leave little old ladies standing around in the "G" section of fiction for protracted periods of time.

On the public catalog I ascertain that there should indeed be a copy on the shelf, so I return. I scour the shelves. I find one book out of order and one paperback that got shoved behind the row of facing books. But I do not find a copy of The Last Juror.

I check on the woman. She'd really, really like this book. I propose going further and my proposal is accepted. I check the end caps and display cubes.  I make the epic journey down to the circulation area and, though it's status should be different than "checked in" for The Last Juror to be most of these places, I look through our unshelved carts in case it's on there. I come up blank. I report back.

She'd still like the book. I put a copy on hold for her and have an idea. There is one copy of The Last Juror on mending status. I suspect that this is likely in preparation for it being weeded from the system. There's been a lot of thinning of the collection going on. I go to an area where there is a cluster of these carts full of books prepared for weeding, but I can't find a copy. However, the carts seem sequential, suggesting there are more carts elsewhere. I get a lead that these are in the librarians' workroom.

As I emerge from the circ area the woman has wandered downstairs. She is ready to leave. She appreciates my help. I cannot quite tell whether she is tired of waiting, feels bad about my looking so hard for her book, or simply has started to feel she is involved in a hopeless endeavor. I don't try to talk her out of leaving.

When I go back upstairs to resume my shelving I stop in the librarians' workroom, mostly out of curiosity, but also with the thought that I still might be able to run and catch her if by some grace I find a copy of the book. There are three carts full of fiction in this workroom, but oddly they start at the author last name beginning with "H" and go on alphabetically from there.

And there my search must end, and so, alas, must my story for today.

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