Top Ten Strangest Questions I’ve Been Asked While Working at a University Library Front Desk

10. Patron: If I was feeling particularly existentialist, what book would you recommend for me?

camus

9. Patron: Hi. I’m looking for a book called Bay Wolves. Can you help me find it?

Me: Sure, let me look it up for you… Hmmm, sorry we don’t have any books by that name. Do you know the author’s name, maybe?

Patron: No, but I think it’s spelled kind of weird, like B-E-O… wolves.

Me: …Do you mean Beowulf?

beowulf cat

8. Patron: Can you help me find the Law Library?

Me: [pulls out a map] The Law Library is right here. You just walk down this street, turn this corner, and you’ll be there.

Patron: Thanks, hopefully they’ll have a book about Newton’s Laws.

Me: Uh, maybe you’re looking for the Physics Library instead…?

Newtons-Third-Law_15990-l

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Watch the World’s Longest Book Domino Chain

Last month the public library of eNotes’ very own hometown, Seattle, broke the world record for the world’s longest book domino chain. Check it out!

It took twenty-seven volunteers, seven hours, and five attempts in all, but on May 31st at approximately 11pm the Seattle Public Library successfully toppled 2,131 books, domino style. The awesome number of books used allowed the library staff to get creative with the pathway, too, as books climbed ramps, scaled stairs, and at one point spilled across the floor to spell ‘READ’ in giant letters. The books truly seem to have a life of their own as they bypass scenes like a couple sharing a picnic and a woman reading on the beach. In truth, these books were actually given a second life, as all of them had been “retired and donated” to the library. Now that they’ve had their moment in the spotlight, though, all should find a new home, thanks to the library’s ingenious way of getting the books back out there for public consumption:

Books used in the record-setting event can be purchased at upcoming Friends of The Seattle Public Library book sales. Each book will have a special sticker identifying that it helped set the book domino world record, as well as the Web address so the book buyer can watch the video.

Hopefully this attention-grabbing kickoff to the Seattle Public Library’s summer reading program will have a domino effect on the popularity of reading worldwide. Kudos to the two college students who masterminded the entire event: Laura D’Asaro and Luke Greenway of Harvard University and Middlebury College.


Blind Date With a Book

While a blind date with another human being on Valentine’s Day is on par ideas-wise with tattooing your significant other’s name on your chest, a blind date with a book is not. This is what librarian and tumblr user alethiosaur, inspired by Worthington Libraries, sought to prove with her local library event, in which she paired browsing library-goers with titles unknown to them except for the few characteristics she listed on their sealed-up covers. Fortunately, she was able to avoid those overused dating site catchphrases, “I’m tired of all the games,” and “If you like moonlit walks on the beach”.

Here’s a few examples of what she came up with instead:

Recognize the titles above? How about these ones:

Happily, most of the books got hot dates with more than thirty readers.

We started with ~40 books. Two hours later, all but four had found homes with library patrons (sorry, FlushMixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerPersepolis, and The ThingsThey Carried, they don’t know what they’re missing).

See if you recognize any more of the books looking for love below. Which one would you choose, or what book would you set up a fellow reader with for a blind date? What would you tell him or her about it?

Have a love-filled Valentine’s Day! We hope it involves a book somehow, or at least a little recitation of our top ten love poems.


Bookless Libraries? They’re Coming

downton_library

Just this week, I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey and one of the scenes was set in the library. Beautiful leather-bound volumes filled the vast room from floor to ceiling and covered every wall. Lord Grantham took no notice of them at all, as he stood, brandy in hand, waiting for his valet to fetch his evening coat.

The visual image of this early twentieth century library struck me on a couple of levels; first, how books like the ones that adorn the Crawley’s home were once meant for the very elite. The servants downstairs might have indulged themselves occasionally in a “penny dreadful” but it is unlikely that any of them read, or had access to, much more.

The second thing that I noticed was the sheer numbers of tomes, and how unnecessary, really, it is in the twenty-first century to have to devote so much physical space to the printed word. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing I love more than the heft of a book. I love the way they smell. I delight in actually turning pages.

Until it is time to move.

I have as many books in my Kindle now as I do on my buckling shelves. And they all fit in my smallest pocketbook.

So I suppose I understand that modern libraries are facing the same dilemma. The space and time needed to house and administer books is enormous. Not long ago, “bookless” libraries were only an idea, but now they are happening.

This fall, San Antonio, Texas will open its first entirely electronic lending library. There will be fifty computer terminals and eReaders that patrons can check out and take home. Even though the project cost $1.5 million dollars, its advocate, Judge Nelson Wolff, argues that it is cost effective. The new institution, dubbed “BiblioTech” uses existing city facilities, and, perhaps more importantly, is available to a largely underserved community whose residents often do not have their own personal electronic devices.

Is this the future for most libraries? Probably. But not for a while yet. To say there is still an enormous amount of material to be digitized is a understatement. And there are copyright issues with which to contend. Sarah Houghton, director of a library in California, complains that “99 percent” of the materials that the general public want to check out,  such as best-sellers, simply aren’t “available to libraries digitally.”

Another issue inhibiting the growth of bookless libraries is the training of staff, not only on use of the devices, but how to explain them to their patrons, many of whom may have had little or no experience with digital readers. Moreover, the expense of acquiring all of these new devices is often prohibitive for most public libraries. And what happens when these devices become outdated? Today, it seems that technology improves every two years, if not sooner.

Better not upset Lord Grantham just yet. You may still need to borrow that volume of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America


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