Three questions in one day had me at a loss recently:
1. “I am looking for a particular book about the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I can’t remember the title and I don’t know the author. It was mentioned on a TV show I was watching recently but I can’t remember what show it was. Can you find it for me?”
2. “I want to read a book I saw mentioned in a newspaper a while ago. I don’t know the title or the author. It is written by a roadie of a big rock band but I can’t remember which band.”
3. “I want a book about living with a spinal cord injury with Australian content. I don’t have access to the internet at home and I won’t use it here at the library!”
Now I will do my best to try to help these people: I will do subject searches of the library catalogue; I will search probable TV show websites and newspaper resources; I will search Amazon and Google. I will think laterally trying to come up with some way to find what these people are looking for.
Of course I found many books about Sydney Harbour Bridge but not the one sought by this particular individual. I found many books written by roadies of rock bands but not the one the man wanted. I found many relevant and detailed websites pertinent to Australians living with spinal injury and these listed books that may have been of use, but since this person flatly refused to look at the internet this avenue of information was not an option.
It really does help to have a title or an author to begin the search. In each of these cases I sent the person away to perhaps find more information to help with the search. I felt like a failure. I continued to think and search long after they had gone trying to find the elusive book they sought. But it is really a lost cause without a little more information.
It is amazing how often someone will come in asking for a particular book saying “I don’t know the title or the author but it has a blue cover.” Or something similar. More often than not, through questions asked in the ensuing conversation, I can discover the book they mean and find it easily.
I’ve worked in a lot of bookstore in my day and this kind of thing happened to me all the time! I knew what they were looking for most of the time, but that’s a lot easier to achieve in a bookstore than in a library.
I noticed that Petite Anglaise is on your blogroll. At Francophilia we’re going to be giving away signed copies of her books to members soon. So if you aren’t a member, I hope you’ll join! (www.francophilia.com)