A large part of being a librarian is finding a book that someone read when they were younger, but they don’t remember the title or the author or what it looked like or when it was published, or how old they were when they read it, but they *think* it was about x, y, or maybe z. Or something like that.
This request typically commences an inner monologue of “good luck, charlie, we’re not finding this needle in a haystack” and about 50% of the time my inner monologue is wrong and it’s a really good thing that my customer service face doesn’t reflect my inner monologue face.
Last week I received such a question. A older woman, who seemed to have a penchant for conversation, called saying that she had 3 in-depth questions and did I have time to help her? The first one was easy enough — She wanted to order some American Girl books directly from the publisher and wanted their contact information. Luckily the beast that is American Girl is corporate enough now to have all that information in just a few clicks.
So I’m thinking *whew!* how hard can questions 2 and 3 be? Well, 2 and 3 were the eye roll commencing question (although she had a little more information). She was looking for 2 books, by the same author that she read when she was younger. She believed they would have been published in the 1930s or 1940s. She thinks the author’s name might have been Margaret, but she’s not sure. She thinks one book was called The Legend of St. Nick and the other was called Good King Wenceslas. They received excellent reviews when they came out. I asked her some clarifying questions and searched with her on the phone for a few minutes while she told me about her parents and her life (she was a bit of a wild girl apparently), but I had a feeling this was going to take some time. I asked her for her phone number and if I could call her back within an hour with my findings (I was feeling particularly like a Negative Nancy that day, so I thought I would be calling her back with an “I’m sorry, but I didn’t find anything that matched your description”). She agreed, but first went off about “How wonderful libraries and librarians are” and how I should never doubt if I’m making a difference in someone’s life, because I am. I am fighting the good fight. I am helping make the world go round.
In all honesty, I kind of needed that pep talk from a random stranger that day. It also made me feel like I HAD to find the answer to her question for her. I practically wanted to purchase the books myself and send them to her so that she could have them.
She was looking for Good King Wenceslas (1964) and The Story of Saint Nicholas (1960) by Mildred Madeleine Corell Luckhardt, published by Abingdon Press. The books were both out of print, but I got the information of a used bookseller in case she wanted to contact them and purchase since she’s homebound (she says her body is falling apart, but she tells her doctor to just give her the medicine because she has a lot of projects going on and doesn’t have time to focus on her body. We need to concentrate on our higher selves she says). She was more than grateful upon receiving the information and said she never had a doubt that I would find the information (I admitted that I wasn’t hopeful when I said I’d call her back) and complimented me on my customer service skills and said she wished I could have a tax-free raise.
Interactions like these are good reminders of why we do what we do. Especially when politics and bureaucracy and whatever else seem to be getting in the way. Librarians are still fighting the good fight and still making a difference, to people of all ages.
(Right before the woman called, I also had a little girl come up asking why I wasn’t in the library when she was here last time which was a Sunday and seemed a little surprised that I don’t live here. It’s the little recognitions that help.)