“Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.” Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Oh my.  It wasn’t just a library joke.  People really did say this and mean it.  And then expect you to find the book for them.  As in, possibly right then.  At that moment.  Pronto~! 

Their faces fall if you can’t.  It’s a little bit heart-breaking, and one is left with a keen sense of failure in having been the Depository of all Literary Knowledge, and let an enthusiastic reader down.

The first time someone said this line to me, I thought they were taking the mickey and laughed.

Oops, no: serious.  Quickly back paddle.

You know, we should forget about classifying the books by the Dewey or Library of Congress systems.  Because this is how patrons really want us to shelve them:

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

Wellington Central Library, New Zealand

I thought I would share some of the resources I use when searching for Forgotten Books

Because without doubt, they are a thing.  They are usually children’s or young adult books, as this comes about when people begin to suffer from Nostalgia Sickness. 

It is usually only a quick dose of this illness, but like a nagging bacterial infection, needs a specialised antibiotic to make it go away.

And that antibiotic is a particular book.  And it is up to you to make a diagnosis and find that book.

So, here are a few of the resources I use:

·         Goodreads Group – What’s The Name Of That Book???


·         Stump the Bookseller (N.B. Small fee applies but archives free to browse)


·         Search (e.g. Google) keywords (any details of plot, names, etc. also ‘book’, ‘story’, ‘young adult’, ‘historical’, ‘thriller’, etc.)

·         Literature Reference Guides, e.g.

          Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, edited by Jenny Stringer

–          Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Claire Buck

–          Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature, edited by Gerard Curruthers, Liam McIlvanney

·         AbeBooks.com BookSleuth®


·         Also the image searching option for search engines can be helpful.  For example, typing in “purple book cover” yields:

Purple Cover

On a related matter: people, after finding out I work in a library, will either…

a) say I don’t look like a librarian

b) ask me to recommend them a book

“Uh, ok.  What kind of stories or characters interest you?  Fiction or non-fiction?  What have you enjoyed watching or readi-“

“No, no,” my dentist says cheerfully.  “just off the top of your head.”

Gravity’s Rainbow,” I shoot back as he reaches for the drill.

These are some of the resources or strategies I use to help recommend a book (or suggest to people that they use):

·         The Ultimate Teen Book Guide, by Daniel Hahn (Editor), Susan Reuben, Leonie Flynn

·         The internet.  Just search the internet.  Blogs, forums, LibraryThing, Goodreads (especially good for reading quotes from books and getting a ‘feel’ for them)

·         Suggest they read the book of the film they loved.  Yes, there is often a book it was based on – and the book is seldom less amazing!

·         What Should I Read Next? http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/

Does anyone else have some ideas or resources they would like to share for making book recommendations or of use in finding Forgotten Books?


The Most Entertaining Kinds of Issue Desk Conversations

The Lady Who Hated Annotations.  And Possibly Men.

 The following borrows character portraits from the Playstation game Grandia to help illustrate one of the conversations I’ve had on desk with less-than-satisfied patrons.


Do you check the books when they are returned?


For damage?  Yes, we give them a glance over.


Well someone has scribbled annotations all throughout this book!  <sniff>.  A man, no doubt.


[I take the book and flip through the pages.  There are, indeed, pencilled comments scattered throughout.]


Would you like to issue it regardless?  I can make a note in the item record to fix this when you return the book.


I can’t use the book in that condition!  Those man’s ideas are entirely in conflict with my own.  It is far too distracting.


Is that so.


Well, what are you going to do?

[With a quick glance at the long line of people behind her.]


Um, leave it with me.  I’ll rub the notes out and
put the book on hold for you.  You can pick it up this afternoon.


Yes, this conversation happened, and no – it is not exaggerated in my recount of it.

I spent a good part of my morning meticulously rubbing out all traces of penciled-in comments – without, I might add, being able to readily decipher any of them myself.

The handwriting was scrawling and loopy.  To give the lady credit, she must have squinted really hard at each annotation and had a steely determination to be distracted by them.  I considered writing LOL at random throughout the book, but dregs of professionalism prevented me.

I was positioned at another desk later that day when a co-worker came to warn me to hide.

“Is World War III imminent?” I inquired.

“In a manner of speaking,” He replied in the world-weary voice he’d adopted.  “She’s back, and they can’t find her book.  She’s on the warpath.”

They did eventually find her book on the holds shelf, as related to me by another colleague.  The lady in question had loudly proclaimed her disgust with the MAN who had defaced the book as the female staff member desperately hunted for it, and the male staff member was glared at all the while for the sins of his sex.

Encounters such as these get filed under “Entertaining” rather than “Infuriating”.  Come to think of it, I don’t have a metaphysical folder for the latter.

The Lady Who Was Incensed At Paying $4 To Borrow A DVD

The lady in the previous anecdote reminds me of another, who I had met in the public library – and, at the time, I decided was definitely an expy of Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping up Appearances.  She sassed me, and she sassed me good.

Old lady

Firstly, I didn’t know what she meant when she’d heard on the radio that the library could help people with filling out their tax returns.

“Yes, I asked the woman on the reference desk and she gave me the same blank look,” She sniffed.

(We did not, and never did, advertise this service.)

Secondly, I made the mistake of brightly saying “That’ll be just $4 for the DVD please!” when she handed it to me for issuing.

Just?”  She repeated at about the same time I was imaginary kicking myself.  “And I see I have to pay for borrowing this new book too?  Are libraries operating as merchants now?”

I gave her a smile.  It’s generally safer than trying to explain the issue of councils requiring a certain percentage of return in the library budget.  Annoyed people usually just care about the time, not how the watch works.  And if they don’t like the time you’re telling them, I can guarantee you’ll hear all about it.

“Good god,” the lady behind her in the queue exclaimed as her turn came.  “If she thinks this library is expensive, she should try living in Wellington for a while!”

The Man Who Would Not Leave

1.       Upset staff member who was doing her job by informing him library was closing in 20 minutes by giving her a 15 minute lecture on the subject

2.       Trapped me listening to his life story in which he complains about everyone he ever met

3.       Tried to shake my hand (I pretended to not notice and gradually led him out of the library as he talked)

4.       Just as we thought we were rid of him, frozen looks of horror come over our faces as he returns

5.       Attempts to tell me more about people-who-he-doesn’t-like

6.       Usher him out a second time

7.       We close doors in a panic who cares if it’s not time yet we can’t let him back in oh god is that him coming back no false alarm

8.       Door barrier successfully up;  other patrons let out of library from fire exit