Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday Memories

Did I ever tell you my favorite story about Serendipity?

In 1993 I was heavy into research on the private library of an Illinois farm family. I knew what was in the library from an estate list because the owners were my grandparents who had died in the 1960s, and they had inherited some of the books of their parents who settled in Illinois from Pennsylvania in the 1850s--with books. However, it required a lot of background material about publishers, what people read and why, the role of religion, what the schools were like, etc.

I was the librarian for the veterinary medicine college at Ohio State University, some distance from the main campus. One day I was in the Main Library for a meeting and made a quick trip into the stacks. I don't know how many books were in the collection in 1993 in that one building (12 floors), but there were 4,000,000 total in the various 20+ locations to serve 50,000 students. Anyway, I went into the stacks to browse shelves--my favorite unorganized way to do research. Although I taught classes on how to do library research (there was no Web in those days and very little was digitized), I never actually used those methods myself.

I saw a book that looked interesting but was out of order and pulled it off the shelf. When I flipped through it, I saw it contained some studies on what farmers read and what books they owned during the 1920's so I took it down stairs to the circulation desk. When the clerk attempted to charge it, the computer refused, and so she looked at the record. It was already charged out--to me! It had been charged out to me since 1991 and I had never seen the book. I had probably noticed the title in a bibliography, found it in the on-line catalog, and charged it out from my office without ever seeing it.

At Ohio State, faculty and staff could charge books out from any library on campus remotely and have them mailed to our office address. Apparently this one went astray and never made it to my office and never had the charge removed. Because I was doing so much research at that time, I probably had 20-30 items on my record. We had a computer command that would renew anything we had that was overdue, so each time I did a batch renewal, I was renewing this book that I’d never seen. I don’t know what the system allows now, but in 1993 you could literally keep a book forever if no one else requested it.

What do you suppose the chances are for picking a mishelved book in a collection of four million volumes and having it already charged out to you--two years ago?

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monica said...

That's crazy! I feel honored I'm the first. Cheers sweetie!

Great memory, mine's up!


Renee Nefe said...

Wow! I think the biggest suprise is that it was a book in the wrong place and exactly what you were looking for.

I've gotta go remember something now. ;o)
Happy Monday

Love your quote at the top!

Kimmy said...

Wow. That is pretty cool. I'm glad you found it. It could have still been there today. Just waiting for you to read it.

I'm the same way with books. I find one on the shelf I like. The look, the title... I'm not sure what, but it grabs me.

My MM is up! (And I love the quote you have up today!)

Renee Nefe said...

I got a memory!
fefyfomanna: Monday Memories: Arriving in Korea

Melzie said...

That's pretty funny, that you found it, plus got it out of the wrong spot- and "back" into your hands, LOL!

Shelli said...

How bizarre! That is really odd.

Anonymous said...

That is pretty amazing! Out of 4,000,000 books. I remember one time I returned my child's book to a library where I used to live, and they told me I never returned it. I know I did. I wonder if they ever found it...

Ladybug Crossing said...

How cool was that!!
Part of my old library job was to get a list of books that patrons claimed they had returned and find those books on the shelves... I'd say 50% of the books claimed to be returned actually were...
PS My mm is up

Libragirl said...

That is very cool. To find that one book, I can't even find books I'm looking for when I go to the libary.

Rowan said...


Did you end up enjoying the book?

Nature Girl said...

What a crazy story! I loved it....I think that book was just supposed to be found by you! My MM is up too...Stacie

Jen said...

That is WILD! I can't believe it!

My memory is up :-)