Last week, I began a series of posts about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here.
How are librarians like mind readers? Because we get asked questions all day long on every subject imaginable and are expected to come up with accurate answers. Here's some examples.... all are real questions I've gotten at the reference desk.
Question: What's the name of the blue book with people standing in circles on the cover? Answer: A Wrinkle in Time, first edition, cover designed by Ellen Raskin.
Question: What's that book where a chicken takes a plane? Answer: Olvina Flies by Grace Lin.
Come on, challenge me, people.
Now, here's a great question from a few days ago. All the quotes from the patron are real. I couldn't make them up if I tried.
Elementary school patron: I want that poetry book with a hippo on the cover.
Librarian: Hmmm.... okay, nothing springs to mind. A search on poetry and hippos yields nothing. Neither does a look through the covers of all the books by Allan Katz and Jack Prelutsky (if any poets would use hippos on their covers, it would be them.)
Patron: I think the hippo might be holding a lemon.
Librarian: After a catalog search, Google Image search, and intensive questioning of my colleagues, I'm still drawing a blank. Is there any other possible piece of information you remember about the book?
Patron: I think it had something to do with the number five.
The librarian does a catalog search for poetry books about the number five. The patron recognizes the picture of the book in the catalog.
And the mystery book is: Monster Goose by Judy Sierra. Here's the cover. You can't help but notice that there are no hippos, lemons, or the number five anywhere on the cover. The only reason it came up in the catalog at all is because it was described as a book of "twenty-five" poems. The fact that it was the right book was completely serendipitous. (And yes, it was the right book. I asked the patron about ten times to be sure.)
Children ask for books in different ways than adults do. One of the great parts of being a children's librarian is when you figure out what the patron is really asking for and find the right book.
Come on, Google. I dare you to find Monster Goose based on that description.