02 July 2011

Zella Kate, Library Detective: The Case of The Missing Book

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."

"Oh dear."


  1. Your little misadventure searching for that book made me smile for I had missed your blog :) I'm glad you're back, even if it's only for a little while.

  2. Oh dear.
    This was a great story, Zella. Funnily enough, I sold a copy of this book to someone at work today. At least I think it was this one.
    Again, so glad you're back!

  3. @Lola Aww Thanks! I missed you and all of my readers, too.

    @Penguins: Thanks! Bahahaha This revelation of yours is a sign! This book is taunting book ninjas world-wide. Beware! :P

    (P.S. For some reason, my profile is acting up and not letting me post comments, yet it's letting me post blogs. *is confused* Nevertheless, I assure you this is me. :D)


  4. Yay, Zella! You're back!
    I, too, have been rather inactive on my blog. *hangs head shamefully*
    Your escapade with the missing book was quite funny! And also understandably frustrating. :)

  5. Sana, I have missed you and your delightful blogs! Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed my little escapade. :)

  6. OMG! This was the greatest post ever Zella!! :) I loved it!

    I've recently decided that I want to be a librarian when I grow up. Yep, no more BSEd for me. I really want to get a part time job at a library to get experience, but I know I've griped about my lack of a library job before, so I'll end while I'm ahead. :)

    On a very slightly related note, I did get a job as a hostess. :)

  7. Glad you enjoyed it! :D

    You know, I have been leaning toward becoming a librarian myself. I enjoy most aspects of my job, so I have seriously considered becoming a reference librarian or working at an academic library or archive. We shall see. ^^

    If you can, see if you can get a work-study position at your college's library. You'll get some great library experience that way, which will help you decide if that's the career you want to pursue. It will also help cut down on your expenses.

    What do you plan in majoring in now that you've decided not to teach? *voice drops to a whisper* Come over to the dark side and major in history or English, both of which are great options for library school. ^^

  8. You should! From what we've talked about, you seem to really enjoy working at the library. :)

    I think I will try to do that. I'll have to call the right people and see if they have an opening, which may be tough. I have an intro to research class that's housed in the library so I'm hoping to make some connections there. :)

    I really want to get a tutoring job at the library. Well not a job, but volunteer, because I need so many hours of community service to renew my scholarship and I think that would be a good way to do so. Maybe a history, English, or communications class. Definitely not math or science!

    I'm going to major in English Literature!!! :D I want to try to minor in Creative Writing and Computer Science (I've heard librarians need to know their way around a computer, yes?).

  9. Why, thank you! :) I particularly enjoy helping people find resources for research or books they're looking for, hence the interest in academic libraries and/or reference work.

    Yes, do make connections! And volunteer! That's how I got my job, actually. Tutoring sounds like a good route. I really do enjoy my job as a writing center tutor. I would die if I were forced to tutor anyone in math or science. That or the person I was tutoring would shoot me. I couldn't blame them, either. :P

    *high fives a fellow English major* Yes, knowing computers is definitely a plus. I should be more familiar with them than I am. I've read that libraries are especially interested in people who have experience with HTML coding and stuff like that. My roommate--who happens to be a computer science major--has a friend, also a CS major, who works in a library.

  10. That's the plan! :) I want to work at my campus's writing center someday, too. Although people may think that I am way to tough, since that's what anyone whose paper I peer-edited said. I can't help it if I have ridiculously high writing standards! :)

    I'm not sure if I'm really good with computers or not. I've only ever written papers and surfed the internet, never anything more than that. So CS should certainly be an experience for me! :D

    What are the major differences between a "normal" library and an academic library? I should probably know these things...

  11. There's nothing wrong with being tough or thorough. ^^ One thing I learned, though, was not to totally shred papers as a tutor. It's hard to bite my tongue, but I know that if I nitpick every single grammar error, the students will never come back, so I pick the most blatant problems. My coworkers and I frequently talk about how we are always thinking, "But that person walked out of here and still had minor grammatical errors in his or her paper. Nooooo!" I take out my wrath on the school paper to compensate. :P

    That's about the extent of my experience with computers, too. The idea of doing coding or anything fancy terrifies me. My roommate insists it is easy and fun, but she's a cs major. She doesn't realize we mere mortals find these things just the slightest bit tricky.

    For the most part, they are very similar, just different patrons. At an academic library, you're dealing exclusively with college students and researchers, usually faculty or grad students. Since my favorite part of working in a library is finding research sources and answering reference questions and, as a nerdy obsessive, I enjoy doing stuff like cataloguing and indexing, I'd be more likely to be guaranteed to do those things if I worked in an academic library. In a public library, you do those things, too, but you're also catering to an entire community of all ages. Small children terrify me--mainly because since I was the youngest in my family and never did any babysitting, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do when around kids. I am constantly afraid that I'll do something wrong--so the idea of doing story times for a living is not one I want to contemplate. I do help with our summer program, primarily with movies--which is actually fun--but I'd much, much rather do reference work. (Of course, since I work in a small library, the duties are shared by everyone. If it were a bigger public library, there's a good chance that one person would be in charge of the children's programs and section and another would be in reference.)

  12. If only people would be more interested in saying what they really want to say, instead of assuming that they are saying what they want to say. *shakes head*

    Yes, your roommate needs to be reminded that we common folk are slightly afraid of what are computers can truly do. Which is a fairly scary idea, if you stop and think about it. I mean really, have you ever thought about it? My Macbook could go all Hal on me one day!

    I digress.

    Yes, I do see the differences now. (: Since I have no clinical experience my opinion is slightly invalid, but I think I would like a public library better. I would love to work indirectly with kids like that! I love story time. My only problem is that I have a slight speech impairment and my reading aloud skill suck, so they probably wouldn't put me there.

    It's not my fault; my mouth just can't move as fast as my brain. This results in a lot of awkward moments when no one understands what I am saying. And some even more awkward moments when even I don't understand what I am saying.

  13. My HP sometimes goes Hal on me. I cower in a corner until it decides to behave or until my roommate uses voodoo--or whatever she does--to make it behave. We need to unite against the computers and let them know they do not scare us. ^^

    One thing that is cool about a public library is that you get a wide variety of people to deal with, everyone from senior citizens to children.

    Don't completely rule out storytime! I don't have a speech impediment, but I get so upset about being in front of crowds that I sometimes have panic attacks or I resort to mumbling inaudibly. When i first starting working at the library, I refused to speak to anyone. Fortunately, my boss was patient with me and didn't fire me. My boss has slowly, over the past four summers, gotten me used to doing things in front of people, like running the summer movie program or helping moderate a YA book club. With practice, I have gotten better, though I still am not spectacular at it. Perhaps you could start by volunteering at a public library during storytime assisting one of the librarians. (I know my coworkers would kill for someone who would do that willingly. They've asked me just to stand up there and provide an extra hand and moral support without me actually having to say anything or--horrors--sing, but the whole idea just terrifies me. I hide in the front and man the desk while they do storytime.) Do you think that would help? I think genuinely wanting to work with kids is something that kids pick up on, just like how they pick up on the fact that I feel awkward and uncomfortable. Thus, I think you would make an awesome story time teller! :)

  14. Yes! They are only powerful while we let them be! We'll show them who's boss! :)

    I think I would like a wide variety, that way it never gets boring. :)

    Aw Zella, thanks for the encouragement! I'll definitely try volunteering out. I'm glad you got over your shyness, I hope I can too. Well, my hosting job has helped me with patrons but not so much with my co-workers. We aren't really friends..(They think I'm weird-I think they're weird).

  15. ^^ Attack the computers! :P

    You're welcome! :)

    Ah, don't feel bad about the coworkers. Most of my coworkers think I'm strange. (Even the ones I'm friends with admit I'm a little out there.) Just tell them that weird people have all of the fun. :D