Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What do you do when someone wants a $1,000 book?

I just had a guy ask for a book that costs $1,000 that we don't own.

Sure, we can request an interlibrary loan, but what library is going to drop their $1,000 book in the mailbox? And worse, there's only one copy of the book listed in WorldCat and it's in Feuchtwangen. Yeah, that Feuchtwangen, the one by Schnelldorf, Wörnitz, Dombühl, Aurach, Herrieden, Wieseth, Dentlein am Forst, Dürrwangen, and Schopfloch. Right. That one. (I'm kidding. There is only one library with a copy, but it's in the U.S.A.)

But he needs the book for his research. Really important research.

What do you do when someone asks for something that you know they ain't getting? I know the diplomatic thing is for me to just take the request and let someone else tell him No.

But I'm compelled to tell these people that they are making unrealistic requests.

Like the people who email week after week looking for some local news story or obituary from 70 years ago when they have no exact date. This isn't the San Jose Daily News (which has online indexing for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through a subscription) we're talking about; this is just a local paper that very few people thought was important enough to keep 70 years ago, so microfilm is spotty and online indexing is nonexistent.

But it's really, really, really important that they get a copy of that article.

What do you do? How is your librarian bedside manner? Do you smirk, and say, "Sir, no library is going to get that for you"?

It's taken me a long time, but I think I've stopped smirking. I just try to say, "No," without getting snotty. I say, "One library has it so we'll request it for you." Or, "We have the microfilm and you're welcome to search through it."

But I don't say, "No one here has the time to do that for you, you slobbering, inbred troll." I leave him to work out that message on his own.