Ghosts in the Shelf

Voodoo Hoodoo SpellbookAs librarians, we love it when our patrons get excited about the materials we purchase for them. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a title we’ve ordered fly off the shelf and accumulate holds; it’s a good sign that we’re on the right track to knowing what our readers want. Occasionally there’s a downside to success: when we can’t keep a title on the shelf because people don’t want to return it. When titles go unreturned we charge the guilty party and replace the books right away, either with copies of the same book, or with something more updated. We often order multiple copies of replacement books to accommodate the obviously high level of interest. Over time, the librarians who buy books in different areas of our collection have come to notice specific titles and topics that go A.W.O.L. more frequently than others. Some may not be too shocking to some, while others may be a bit of a surprise. Here’s what our book selectors have to say about what some readers just can’t get enough of at the EPL:

Essential Bicycle Maintainance & RepairAccording to Richard, bicycle repair manuals often ride off into the sunset, and sex instruction books frequently go undercover.

Pat reports that books on growing and cultivating marijuana go up in smoke.

Alan frequently has to reorder rock star memoirs on addiction recovery.

Game of ThronesAndrea says that in the young adults section, books by Ellen Hopkins are frequent offenders. One disappearing nonfiction title that gave her a chuckle had something to do with being an ethical hacker.

In Zac’s area, he has to replace a lot of graphic novels. Some eternally-popular titles include Sin City Vol. 1, The Eye of the World, The Game of Thrones, Y: The Last Man, The Lucifer series, and Batman:The City of Owls.

Cover image from Numerology for your FamilyFor my part, books in the occult and new age areas (reading crystals, casting spells, astrology, etc.) can be an issue. Bibles, bible study books, and devotionals are often not returned. My favorite not returned title was a self-help book on impulse control. My guess is that the borrower really needed it.

Other problem areas include automotive repair, true crime, diet and medical advice, gardening and homesteading, herbalism, foraging, computers and technology how-tos, cookbooks, tattoo design, crafting, test prep, and home projects.

For the most part it seems like the materials that most frequently go unreturned at the EPL are items that people might need at their side for quick reference. There are a lot of manuals (hands-on or spiritual) for getting through day-to-day problems, or self-improvement. Occasionally these books make their way back to our shelves after long absences. One can only hope that this means the borrowers finally fixed whatever issues were plaguing them.

While we may find some humor in the variety of materials that our patrons can become overly-attached to, missing items can be a serious problem if left unchecked. Library staff constantly work at following up on long-overdue items to make sure that materials are where they need to be when our readers want to check them out. So to our loyal readers, if you happen to be sitting on a cache of late materials, be kind and get them back a.s.a.p so that someone else can enjoy them.

Librarians Gone Wild!

Librarians have long been burdened with a variety of uncomplimentary stereotypes, stern old maid and milquetoast bookworm being perhaps most common. Oh, and we mustn’t forget that standby of 1960s sitcoms, the plain-looking young woman who upon removing the hairpins from her tightly-wound bun transforms into a sexual dynamo. Thank you Mr. Freud.

In my personal experience with librarians I have encountered few to none of these personality disorders. However, one could probably safely deduce that librarians are interested in reading, research and learning. All of which seem rather tame compared to say the activities of the X-Men.

So as a library employee I’m always interested to find a story where a librarian has a bit of adventure in his or her life.

A recent pleasant surprise that came my way is Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. The main character of this story, Isaac Vainoi, is a librarian, and while his occupation is somewhat irrelevant to the story, his love of books is vital. Isaac is one of a select group called the Porters, people who have such strong imaginations and symbiotic rapport with books that they are able to pull objects from stories (as long as said objects are not larger than a page). This trick comes in handy for Isaac and his fellow Porters as they try to keep the peace between themselves, vampires (yes, yes, I know, vampires are very last Thursday), and regular humans. Sadly, Isaac has been removed from field work and demoted to research duties after letting his magic run amuck. But when a group of vampires attacks a Porter stronghold and libriomancers start dying gruesome deaths, Isaac is thrust into the battle. He is a most excellent example of a bookish, non-athletic, not particularly brave person thrown into a highly dangerous adventure.

As it turns out, Libriomancer is just one of many books that feature the exploits of librarians.  Here are just a few that you might want to check out.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Henry DeTamble is a librarian who involuntarily travels through time, which creates a strange and challenging relationship between his wife and himself.

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton
An American librarian goes to Africa to help with a library that delivers books to nomadic tribes via camel.


The Librarian by Larry Beinhart
In this uproarious thriller, university librarian David Goldberg finds himself on the Ten Most Wanted Criminals list as well as involved in a conspiracy to steal the presidency.

The Giant’s House: a romance by Elizabeth McCracken
In 1950 Cape Cod, an unlikely romance blossoms between a little librarian and the tallest boy in the world.


Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper
A children’s librarian is fired, mistaken for a deer and shot, turned into a vampire, and framed for a series of vampire murders. Any questions?

In addition to these captivating novels, there are a number of graphic novels that feature librarians.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett Krosoczka
Cave of the Bookworms by Michael Dahl
Unshelved by Bill Barnes
Rex Libris: I, Librarian by James Turner

 
So the next time you feel compelled to paint librarians into tiny boring boxes, pick up one of these titles to give yourself a refreshing dose of reality.

Ron