Hello, friends, Romans, countrymen, and enemies! I apologize for my entirely inexcusable absence from the world of Blogger. I have just been so darned busy this past year that I just haven't had time to update regularly. I hope to remedy that, even if only temporarily, with what I have left of the summer. That's the theory, anyway. Oh, lookie! A new blogpost awaits you! *hopes everyone is suitably distracted and does not notice my wallowing for forgiveness*
As most of you know, I have spent the past four summers--and the first two years of college--working part-time at my local public library. In my position as a library employee, my actual duties are technically limited to general office tasks, checking books in and out, and shelving. However, because I work in a small library, I often find myself doing tasks, such as reference, that usually would fall to a librarian who possesses, ahem, actual library credentials. However, that's not quite how things work. I'd be shelving books and some poor soul would come to me, asking for help finding a specific book or for help with a research project. Technically, I should have turned such a case over to my superiors, but they are often contending with other people asking them the exact same questions and they are firm believers in serving the public and not nitpicking over petty rules; thus, they have always been more than supportive of my taking on tasks that a larger library would deem me unfit to perform.
I suppose these privileges have sort of gone to my head in the past few years that I have worked there--I have become a bit smug in my belief that I can ruthlessly hunt down sources and books for our patrons even if I do not possess a black belt in the book ninja arts. I have become somewhat convinced of my abilities as a book ninja, capable of ferreting out AWOL books and procuring items based on vague clues that consist of "I think it has a dog on the cover? Maybe. I really don't know. It is red, though--the cover, not the animal that's on it." I have even begun to believe that, as a book ninja, I am invincible. Alas, this sort of belief has been the downfall of many an expert book ninja, including those far more skilled than I could ever wish to be. It was only a matter of time before I was most righly put in my place, which is exactly what happened this week.
The time was approximately 9:30 a.m. The day, a Friday. You can call me Joe Friday if you wish-- *cough* Wait, where was I? Oh, yes.
I had just taken a stack of books off of the handcart my library uses as a repository for books that have been checked-in but need to be reshelved and returned them to their rightful places in large type fiction when I overheard my boss and a patron looking for a book, James Patterson's 3rd Degree, to be precise. The book was nowhere to be seen, so my boss, who is quite a book ninja in her own right, asked me if I would check the shelf one more time, in case she missed the pesky volume. In our library, this is standard book ninja procedure. Any book ninja may overlook a text while scanning the shelves, so it always helps to bring in an extra set of eyes. We must be vigilant in tending our sheep to protect them from the wolves.
I checked our fiction section for the two shelves that hold Patterson's books. The volume in question was indeed missing. If there is one thing I have learned in my book ninja apprencticeship it is the fact that a book is not where it is supposed to be does not mean that the book is not in the library. Thus, I scanned the shelves below and above the Pattersons, hoping to spy my target there. No such luck. I turned next to the mystery section, which is often the resting place of misplaced fiction books. Alas, no Patterson was to be found among the section's ranks. I then advanced to large type, another place where one often finds runaway books. Again, no luck. I proceeded to our paperback section, which we have segregated from other books simply because we have very little space, and we're trying to put as many new books as we can on our fiction shelves. The paperback section often, but not always, does not include major authors, like Patterson, simply because they have so many paperback volumes there is no point in keeping those separated from their fellows. Nevertheless, occasionally, we just don't have any room for these books on the regular shelves, and they are banished to the paperback section. I scanned the fiction paperback racks, but again had no luck.
Until this point, I had been fairly professional and had remained calm. I mean, books get misplaced all the time. People grab them off the shelves, consider checking them out, opt not to, and then don't know where to put the book, so they shove back on some shelf where it doesn't belong. It infuriates us librarians--Honestly, can they not perform basic alphabetizing?!--but we have come to expect it. However, this little escapade frustrated me. I don't like to have books elude me. I am a book ninja! It is my mission to find books, even pesky runaways. I do not like being defeated! Although I knew my boss had already reserved another branch's copy of the book, I could not stand the thought of returning to our handcart and finding more books to sort. A book ninja does not surrender! We had a book casualty on our hands, and its position had to be ascertained pronto.
I marched back to the fiction section, determined to hunt 3rd Degree down. I rescanned the Patterson shelves, to no avail. I searched behind the Patterson books and on the bottom shelf underneath them, just in case my target had fallen behind its comrades and been trapped. I envisioned this poor tome calling out, "Help! Help! I've fallen and can't get up!" To which I would respond in a most heroic voice, "I'm coming, helpless trapped book! Do not fear. Zella is here!" I could just hear the Mission Impossible theme song blaring in my ears as my hands and eyes rappelled down the shelves to rescue the wounded, frightened book. Nevertheless, my search turned up fruitless. This book was not a poor helpless victim. It was a rogue element, pure and simple.
I retraced the steps of my first search: mysteries, large type, and paperbacks. In the midst of my path, I ran into my boss, who had also returned to the hunt. She wasn't about to surrender, either. She asked me if I had checked the mystery section of paperbacks. I had not, so I promptly remedied that oversight. Alas, the book was not there. I even braved the dangers of the romance section of paperback, venturing into the jungle known as Harlequin to search for the wayward Patterson. It was not there, either.
By now, I was thoroughly flummoxed. I had checked every corner of the library. There was a slight chance that the poor book had been kidnapped and hidden in nonfiction or the children's section, but this was unlikely, seeing as a fiction book sticks out rather prominently in both cases. There was also the horrifying possibility that the book had been kidnapped and taken out of the library, in which case we would not likely see it again. There was also the possibility that the book had simply outwitted me and was residing in one of the sections I had already checked, laughing maniacally and twirling its nefarious moustache.
Regardless of where the book was, I had to admit defeat. I walked up to my boss, my head down, my shoulders slumped. I felt like a failed general, returning to my emperor to report that my troops had been overrun by the enemy due to a strategic mistake on my part. I asked if I should go ahead and change the book's status in our database from "in" to "missing." She had already retraced her own search for the book and found nothing, leaving her no choice but to sadly agreed.
After changing the status, I decided that the best way to shake off the depression I was feeling was to return to work. You can't win every battle, no matter how skilled of a book ninja you may be. There would always be another skirmish that I could test my skills in. I walked over to the handcart, snatched another set of books to shelve, and glanced at the titles. A gardening book, some miscellaneous large types, and a Patterson. Lovely--one of the missing book's cousins, placed there to taunt me, but then I realized that we had probably just not had time to shelve the Patterson book the woman who was looking for 3rd Degree had just finished. Which part of the series was she on? I assumed it was #2 since she was looking for #3.
My eyes dully scanned the title, but what I saw made me do a doubletake. The title was 3rd Degree. What the hey? The book I had spent 15 minutes scouring the library for was sitting at the front desk the entire time? What sort of practical joke from library hell was this? Had we not understood the woman when she asked for this title? Did she not know which book she had just read? Did she not know that she could renew the book without returning it? Or was this book a mission to test my book ninja skills? If it were, I had failed miserably. I sheepishly walked into my boss's office.
"I found the Patterson book."
"On the handtruck. It was waiting to be shelved."