Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Library Tale

Library staff can predict some of the situations we'll be sorting out each day - account questions, books gone astray, excitement with the public restroom (someone didn't bring the key back!) - these things happen consistently. But once in awhile something comes along that is unlike anything else.

I had the pleasure of springing an audiobook from jail this week.

The story began five months ago. A patron (I'll call her Martha) notified us that her car had been broken into several weeks previously; among the items stolen was a bag that included a library audiobook, "Light On Snow". The thieves didn't get the whole book - Martha was working her way through the discs and #5 was still in her CD player. She waited until the audiobook was overdue to bring in the disc and tell us what had happened. She didn't want to pay for the audiobook because she wasn't technically responsible for the situation (this conversation happens more often than you might think.) We gave her a receipt to prove the value of the item and encouraged her to include it in her insurance claim.

Weeks passed. I called Martha to see how the claim was going. Alas, she hadn't yet submitted the claim but thank you for the reminder. She would submit it tomorrow.

I called two weeks later, just to follow up. Oh, she said, I'll get that in the mail today! Hm. I told her that she'd been billed for "Light On Snow". She could pay for it and be reimbursed by her insurance company.

Martha came into the branch more than a month after our conversation, disputing the bill. Her car doors were locked. The thieves broke in. It wasn't her fault that the book was stolen. She wanted to check out another audiobook but she couldn't until the bill was paid. The insurance company had denied her claim because she had waited too long to submit it. (Ah, life lessons.)

And this is when it became interesting.

We offer a service, Ask A Librarian, in which people can submit a question about anything, truly, anything at all. The larger branches in our system take turns monitoring the service and responding to the questions. It happened to be our turn. I signed in and the first question I fielded was this one, from a Kirkland Police Department detective:

"We found an audio book titled Light On Snow by Anita Shreve from your library. It was liekly (sic) stolen during a car prowl. Please call me."

I called him immediately. Yes, they had Martha's audiobook! It was among the items recovered during a Car Prowl Ring bust. They were collecting information about car prowls that had happened all around the Puget Sound area over the last six months. Could I put him in touch with the person from whom the audiobook had been stolen? I assured him that I would give his phone number and email address to our patron and strongly encourage her to get in touch with him quickly. Then I called Martha.

Three more weeks went by. Knowing Martha's tendency to put things off, I followed up with her, asking if she'd been able to speak with the detective. Indeed she had. So, I asked, what are their plans concerning the book? Silence on the other end. She finally said that she thought they'd be sending it back to the library.

I called the detective. Yup, they still had the audiobook. They just needed someone from our library to call the Evidence Tech and give the ok to release it from the Evidence Room. He emailed that phone number to me, cc'ing the Evidence Tech, and asked that I let them know how we wanted them to return it. And then came the best part of all. The detective said that he could walk it down to the local library and they could send it back to us - he was already planning to go there after work to pick up his holds.

I made the call, the audiobook was released, and it's on its way home. Someone familiar with the story said it's too bad the talking book couldn't talk about its experiences during the last five months. Someone else suggested that it would be a good subplot for a mystery, the audiobook being the key to solving the murder.

And this week in Ask A Librarian? A query from a library in Hawaii, asking what they should do with a large-print book belonging to us. . .

Overheard in Twitter: A woman asked me if her elderly dad could sit with me while she shopped at @powells. Grandpa-sitting and loving it. https://twitter.com/#!/Carrie_Rachel/status/181157223987286016/photo/1

Twitter wouldn't let me copy the twitter-truncated photo address, so the long version is copy-and-pasted in. I hope it works because it's a lovely photo; you might have to do your own copy-and-paste. The tweeter is Carrie Brownstein, former member of Sleater-Kinney and one of the primary actors in Portlandia.

Until next time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The humorous side of Technology Fails

I was searching for song lyrics on my laptop this morning when an entertaining 404 Error screen appeared:

  • A serious misjustice has occured. Write your congressman
  • If the original source is not youtube, vimeo, or metacafe, we won't have it archived. We're working on archiving more video sources
  • We may still be downloading the video file. Please be patient and check back later.
  • The video was taken down before we were able to archive it. It happens.
  • Weasles have eaten our servers.

  • I'm pretty focused but things like this induce a temporary ADHD, which no doubt substantiates those dire warnings about what the Internet does to our brains. So distractable. Never mind what I was originally looking for. The 404 screen prompted an immediate web search for "funny 404 error" to see what's out there. The answer: more than you might think. I wasted some time researched the most promising and found a particularly good collection on Hongkiat.com ("online tips for designers and bloggers"), a post titled "60 Really Cool and Creative 404 Error Pages." The 404s represent the gamut of webpage fails, some in other languages, everything from the benign to the not-so. Many of them made me laugh but the one that I laughed at the most belongs to Limpfish. Acorn Creative's 404 is a very close second.

    I did eventually get back to that lyric search.

    Overheard on Twitter: And just when I think I can't sleep in like a college student anymore, I wake up at 11:15. #nowwhosemakingbreakfast.

    Until next time.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Bookmarks and Facebook. Hahahaha.

    Emptying the library's bookdrop can be one of the best times of the day because we never know what we might find in there. Books, of course, along with magazines, DVDs, and CDs, but we often find mysteries, things not commonly associated with books and libraries, and some of those things are pretty funny.

    My first experience with peculiar bookdrop items happened within weeks of my employment. I had rolled the bin into the building and was nearly finished emptying it when a small movement caught my eye. I cautiously moved the remaining contents to one side and discovered several tiny crabs hiding in the cushiony folds of the bin. We're one block from the beach so their origin was no mystery, but we were bemused by their presence so far from home (far, that is, for a traveling crab.) Someone had clearly helped them into the bin. Crabs appeared for several more days, then stopped, no doubt due to the perpetrator tiring of the joke.

    I've mentioned bookdrop contents before, like the $721 cash discovered inside a book about being more organized. People will use anything for a bookmark, apparently, and some of those bookmarks are remarkable. Ask anyone who has processed a bookdrop. They'll tell you of wondrous and puzzling bookmarks - a butter knife, socks, payroll checks, drill bits, organic matter both identifiable and disconcerting. One of the funniest this week was discovered by a librarian at another branch:


    The book: "What's Happening To Me? A Book For Boys."

    She posted the photo on her facebook page and, of course, I had to share it here. This entry has moved into the #1 slot on our list of Notable Bookmarks, dislodging the enormous well-pressed marijuana leaf that we found several months ago inside a book for boys on teen-age parenthood.

    Speaking of facebook, I had a lesson in just how closely social media keeps track of my interests. I was unusually lethargic on Saturday, most likely a response to the last few very busy weeks. Ken was at work and I had no commitments so I watched the entire Neverwhere series at one sitting, grazed the pantry and fridge, and finished reading a couple of books. I posted this status on my facebook page near the end of the day:

    "I was a total slug today. And it was glorious."

    Within minutes, the advertisement column on the right displayed an ad for "#1 Snail Cream." It extolled the virtues of the cream with assurances that it contained "86% Helix Aspersa Snail secretion filtrate." I wasn't sure what disturbed me more about this, the active ingredient in the skin cream or the fact that facebook had so quickly picked up on the keyword "slug." The ad was completely out of context, of course (the joke's on you, facebook advertisers!) but still.

    I logged into facebook the next day and there in the adverts was an invitation to purchase a SlugBell, "the world's best slug and snail control device." I mentioned this in a new status and fb friends instantly commented, including Who says they're not listening???

    I'm tempted to post an odd facebook status just to see what ad might show up. I'll let you know what happens.

    Overheard on Twitter: Today I got a UCLA library card. They let me take home a book that the Library of Congress only let me look at in a room full of cameras.

    Until next time.