Monday, May 08, 2006

how many books are there in a trilogy, anyway?

It's been said there are no stupid questions, but after years in the reference/book biz i beg to differ. At the very least i have had more than a few annoying conversations that i would have preferred not to have been a party to.
Last week a woman called because her husband had a book on hold and she wanted to know if we had the title available in large print. Our library's privacy policy prevents us from telling people (even spouses) what titles are on other peoples cards; so i couldn't look up the card and she didn't know the title; but she kept asking me if it was available in large print, and i kept explaining that it was rather difficult for me to tell her that without knowing the title, she said that she didn't know but it was by Nora Roberts (only three-hundred-and-something Nora Roberts titles in our catalogue), after going round and round on this for a while she finally told me it had a flower name as it was part of the In the Garden trilogy. So i start scanning the large print list for flower names. Red Lily? "No, I started with that one." Okay, there's Black Rose how about that one? "No, I'm reading that one now, I'm reading backwards in the trilogy." (okay, whatever) Blue Dahlia, is the first book in the series and we do have that in large print, shall i put it on hold for you? "No i've read that." Okay well it's a trilogy and you've read all three books in the trilogy. "Yes" (...?) (and we are not talking a Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker trilogy here). But she is still looking for this "other" mystery title, so we continue on this rather tedious merry-go-round for a while, when she finally suggests that her husband come in to pick up the book, come home and tell her the title, then she can call back and ask if we have it in large print. I then suggest that when her husband comes in he can just ask about large print availability while he's here (because of course, we all know that if she calls back Murphy's Law states i'll be the one to answer the phone and i do not want to talk to her again) and finally this seemingly interminable conversation ends, neither one of us more enlightened than we were to begin with.
And then there were the two women who came into the bookstore at Christmastime looking for the children's book that had a title beginning with the word "The". They stood in front of me at the counter making that circling motion with their hands saying "you know, The..." and the problem was they wouldn't stop, they just kept standing there, repeating "The..." they didn't know anything else about the book but they didn't understand why that wasn't enough to go on. Finally someone else came up to the counter who needed to be rung up and they went off in search of someone who knew a little more about books than i did.
Another time i'm standing at the info desk when a woman comes up and insists that the books are not in any kind of order whatsoever and she can't find the novel she's looking for, "They are NOT arranged by author like they should be!" When i walk with her to the shelf and pull the book right from where it is supposed to be her response is, "oh, well I'm from out of town." and it is SO hard for me to NOT say "They don't have the alphabet where you're from?"
And the woman who walked all the way around the information desk at the library with a very confused look on her face, when i finally asked her if i could help her she asked "Just what kind of information do you give out here anyway?" Tempted to ask her for the secret password, i instead tried to very simply explain the nature of reference librarianship and she then asked me what they did at the circ desk which i also explained (wondering if she had ever seen an information desk anywhere--mall, airport, etc--i mean is information such an uncommon entity?)
I suppose the upside is with such an uninformed populace, we "Information Professionals" can maintain our job security--although as i am constantly reminded (especially as in the last instance) those most in need of our services don't even know they need it!

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