Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The great book hunt

If you can't enjoy a good book hunt you probably shouldn't be working at a library.

But first, let's get our terms straight. When one works at a library finding books is a big part of the job. A book may be requested. A book might be required for some kind of processing. And a book might need to be relocated. But all of this is standard library practice. These are not book hunts. A book hunt only comes into it when

a. A book's location is not currently specifically identified (like with a recent return that can be anywhere on several different carts or in bins or boxes.

b. A book is not where it is supposed to be (as in when a person looked for a book in its proper location and did not find it).

c. A book is not found where it is supposed to be even if it's really there (as in when a person looked for a book in its proper location and did not find it, but someone double checked later and found it there after all).

A book hunt is sport. Good sport! The game is afoot. Sometimes one can be all alone in the book hunt, but usually, as the hunt carries on, more and more people join in the game. They just want to help, but they wouldn't mind being the hero of the hunt either. But it also must be said that if a book hunt goes on long enough more and more people also drop out as hopelessness creeps in. In an unsuccessful hunt everyone peels away eventually until it's just the original searcher, usually left to offer sad regrets or apologies to some long suffering library patron somewhere.

Book hunts are fun, but they are by far the most fun if you are the winner.

Actually, come to think of it, they are only fun if you are the winner.

With that in mind let me offer some book hunting tips:

1.   Understand accurately where the book is supposed to be.

This means reading your catalog correctly and knowing how the library is arranged.

2.   Quietly double check other people's work.

Just because a co-worker says it's supposed to be somewhere, or a patron already looked three times doesn't mean either of them got it right. This approach is an especially good way to go if three people are already pouring over the area where the book is supposed to be.

3.  Think outside the box.

How could have it been misfiled? Is it the sort of thing that might tangle with something else? Is the librarian who supposedly placed it a space cadet who might have put it on her desk and forgotten it when she went to lunch? Could the item be very small behind something else, or very big so that it couldn't fit where it was supposed to be?

And finally, if you find the book

4.  Stay humble

Everyone is going to feel a little deflated that they didn't find it themselves, even sometimes the patron who wanted it. If someone overlooked it or produced wrong information they might even feel a bit embarrassed. Don't make a big deal that you found it. The important thing is not who found the book but merely that it was found. It was a team effort. It's just taking care of business. No need to gloat that you found it. All in a day's work.

But inside? You are like a god.


  1. This was one of my favorite sports at the library. And you about the situation in which a book has been deliberately put in the wrong place? It can sit there forever if nobody asks for it, and in that case, nobody will be looking for it. But I remember a couple of times spotting a book that was shelved far from its home, seemingly randomly. And in these cases I suspected that somebody, a patron I assume. was "hiding the book in plain sight." This happened with books about atheism, abortion, and sexuality, in my experience. I assumed that someone who opposed the message of the book didn't have the nerve to steal it, didn't want the bother of formally challenging it, and so put it where it was unlikely to be found.

    And then there was "Human Anatomy for Artists," or something like that. That one was always being moved/hidden, and I think we all just knew to keep an eye out for it.

    1. Ooops, sorry for the delay in response. It slipped through the cracks!

      So, glad you liked book hunting. It's a subset of that detective work aspect of library work that I love too. As to people hiding books in plain sight I sometimes feel that for being such a wary, suspicious sort of person I'm sometimes not suspicious enough!


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