Thursday, June 12, 2008

New York Times Best Seller Lists from the Past

Today on the Reference Desk:
We post the best selling books list in a plexiglass frame on the Reference Desk every week, usually from, but just now I came across a really neat website that has the New York Times Best Seller List back to 1942, by year, by author, by number one best-seller. Here is the link to the Hawes website. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was number one on the list the week and year I started college. Désirée by Annemarie Selinko (Morrow) was number one the year I was born. Desiree doesn't sound familiar at all. Probably my mother was reading Uncle Wiggily stories to me and my older brothers at that point.

This afternoon, a patron asked if there is a way to search the catalog for audiobooks, especially recently acquired ones. That's a pretty common request and the answer is, yes - but it isn't easy. There is a way to "tell" the catalog to "set limits" (using a radio button found only in the "Classic Catalog" format) then to choose the "Format" called "Sound (non-music)." Are you with me so far? Is this "intuitive and user-friendly?" No, of course not, which is why we publish a monthly list of DVD's and CD's acquired since the previous list. Copies of the CD/DVD list are in a binder in the Reading Room and also available on the library email newsletter, The Buzz. Click here to see the Buzz or come in to fill out a form to be put on the the free email subscription list. The Buzz will keep patrons updated about library programs, events and other news. I recommend it highly as light but essential reading. (Disclaimer: I'm the editor.)

A patron just came in looking for travel books. Of course by Librarian Law, librarians can't answer a question without asking another question first: "travel books about what country?" I asked.
- "This country."
- "Is there a specific town or city you are interested in?"I further inquired, not yet ready to give him an answer.
-"OK, that's 917.9." I scribbled it on a slip of recycled scrap paper and hand it to him. Off he went, only to be bamboozled by that pesky Dewey Decimal System. Back he came. This is what keeps librarians in business - libraries are confusing and for the most part patrons have to ask librarians to decode the catalog and actually find things for them. We don't do this on purpose. It's kind of tricky to organize 40,000 books and other items and be entirely consistent about it over time. Bookstores may have a larger inventory (more books) but fewer titles with multiple copies, which makes finding books a little easier there.

Which brings me to the final library adventure for the day: patrons often think they can buy books at the library. Here's a post from Love the Liberry, a very cynical librarian blog, about that common point of confusion between the retail and non-profit mission of bookstores versus libraries.

Moral of the story: Just ask us. You are not alone in being confused by the strange rituals and habits of libraries and librarians. We like to answer questions. Or think of it this way, if you sell insurance, I have no idea what you are doing either, and I'd rather do almost anything other than read the fine print in insurance policies.

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