24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: librarians

Pro Talk: How to Find a Book You’ve Forgotten: Tips from a Librarian

I like my job as a librarian and there are a few tasks I especially love. One of them is readers’ advisory. The other, a sort of branch of readers’ advisory, is when patrons come to me and say: “There was this book I read several years ago. I don’t know the title, and I only know a little bit about it. Help?” And it’s a more common problem than you might think. One of my favorite things is finding the book in question and watching the joy and amazement come over the reader’s face. It’s at this point that, when they express their surprise that I found the book, I note that I didn’t go to library school for nothing. (Which then leads into something like, “Librarians have to get a master’s degree?” and there’s a whole thing about it—but I digress.) If you want to know a bit about how the magic happens, read on to find out how to find a book you’ve forgotten.

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GET HELP

There are a number of strategies when it comes to how to find a book you’ve forgotten. Plenty of folks enjoy the rush as much as I do and there are online resources that will join you in your quest. Goodreads’s “What’s the Name of That Book???” group is an active and popular place to throw your enigma to the pros. You can also try Facebook’s Library Think Tank, which is a general gathering place for librarians and library staff, but accepts all library lovers and will happily pounce on such a question. Then, there’s “What’s That Book Called?” on Reddit. Finally, you could also join the top tier of Book Riot Insidersand ask on the Insiders-only forum.

If you’re intent on figuring out how to find a book you’ve forgotten yourself, though, try these strategies.

WORLDCAT

WorldCat bills itself as “the world’s largest library catalog.” Essentially, libraries give access to their catalogs to WorldCat, which then makes it searchable for anyone. Access and searching is free, and it can helpfully let you know if the book you’re seeking is available at a library local to you. With WorldCat, depending on the details you know about your book, the basic search might be enough. Chances are, this will yield too many results. This is where the filters come in handy.

If you know for sure you read the book a particular year, consider filtering out all books after that year. When someone tells me they know the book was published in, say, 2008, I usually put a buffer around it. Frequently, readers are totally sure about a thing that isn’t actually accurate. It’s easier to rule things out than imagine things into existence, so add a couple of years on either side for better searching. You can also select “Print book” to rule out other formats, since that’s most likely what you’re looking for. Use the filters to narrow your search as much as you can, but try to keep a buffer when possible.

When the filters don’t get the job done, try switching up your keywords. A decent thesaurus can help you out with that, though often, you’re better off trying to come up with your own. Book cataloging, for the most part, is done by humans—while machine learning is all well and good, it can never exactly match human thinking patterns. Related keywords rather than exact synonyms sometimes yield a better result, so even if something seems a little off the wall, give it a shot.

Another fun trick with WorldCat is using subject headings. Especially if someone has already suggested a title that isn’t your book but has similar themes or concepts, this can be a great way to narrow your search. Go to the page for the suggested title, and under the “Subjects” category, find the topic that makes the most sense for your forgotten book and click the link. This will provide you with a new search based around that subject heading. From there, you can go back and narrow again using the filters.

Essentially, your goal when searching is to boil the book down to its most essential self. If you can derive any kind of theme or subject from memories of the opening scene, for example, you’re in decent shape. Sometimes this is something you can do quickly. Other times, it takes some angling and reframing of your memory of the book. With practice, this gets more intuitive, so don’t give up! Instead, when you get stuck, take a few hours or days away from your search and come back to it with a fresh mind.

BIG BOOK SEARCH

For when you can only vaguely remember what the cover looks like, try Big Book Search. If you can include a keyword from the title, you’ll be more likely to find what you’re looking for. However, if you really can only remember images on the cover, you still might have luck. The website’s interface is about as basic as it gets, so if you’re someone who likes a more detailed search method, Big Book Search might not work so well for you. On the other hand, it’s one more place to try a search for that forgotten book.

GOOGLE

Google is vast. But once in a while, it yields just what you need. I’ve typed seemingly nonsensical keyword strings into the search box and got lucky. (Pro tip: include the word “book” in your search somewhere; sometimes adding “young adult” or “juvenile” is useful, too, if your book is one of those.) I typically don’t spend a lot of time searching with Google, however. Because there are so many more results to sift through than with World Cat, it often takes more time than it’s worth.

THAT’S ALL, FOLKS

Because the searching process is something that isn’t an exact science, it’s impossible to put together a guaranteed-to-work step-by-step guide. It’s a fun challenge to take on now and then and practice definitely helps. You might help out some of the folks in the Goodreads group until you have your own need for that practice in the meantime.

What other strategies and resources do you use?

 

*Originally published on Book Riot, September 12, 2018.

LIBR 200: A Brief History and Future of Me

For those of you just joining me, here’s a bit on me and my goals to get you up to speed.

I grew up in the great but small state of New Hampshire, a fact of which I typically remind people around me daily. While I now live in Virginia, I’m a bit of an elitist when it comes to my home state. Live free or die, right? After eighteen years and some months in glorious New England, I headed south to Roanoke, VA to earn my BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology at the ever-supportive Hollins University. Hollins is basically unknown, so here are some quick facts:

  1. Hollins is a women’s school with a co-ed graduate program. There are a few trans* students on campus (F to M), though I do not know of any M to F individuals there.
  2. Hollins is tiny, both in campus size (you can get to one side to the other in six minutes, walking slowly) and population (we’ve got fewer than 650 undergrads).
  3. We do not have a mascot and, because this fact got us on Jeopardy once, we never will.

Hollins was a great place that encouraged me to do lots of things I wouldn’t have done on my own including, I think, trying an online program for my MLIS. I’ve known I wanted to be a YA librarian since I was sixteen. I feel very lucky knowing that I’ve had such a sure career path for a long time as I know this is not the norm. Despite the many comments I’ve received from people around me (“Libraries aren’t going to be around much longer, you know.”), I’ve stayed true to my path and am confident that libraries aren’t going anywhere.

All this to say, I’m very excited to start my adventure with SJSU. Already I am learning about things I had no idea about — information-as-* for example, is a totally new concept to me. For once, I am excited to learn about theory and other topics that are typically encountered with groans from students in all disciplines — foundation-driven topics and the like.  I’m interested in cementing a strong online presence and have considered opening an additional Tumblr account as I am already aware of the large LIS community on that platform. Pinterest, too, seems like a great opportunity that is currently being underutilized by LIS professionals, and so I will be making an attempt to pioneer my way through that path as well. As I continue to read for pleasure in what little free time I’m anticipating, I’ll also be documenting these books with brief reviews on this blog. Check in to see what I’ve read recently and what I recommend. While these goals develop, I’ll be taking on smaller goals of learning as much as I can and trying to stay up-to-date in the larger field and the more specific field of YA readers in public libraries.

This brings me to my next bit: For this semester’s community-driven assignment in LIBR 200, I’m interested in studying YA readers in public libraries. I phrase it this way because, although I am mainly interested in the “intended audience” of YA novels/programs/etc., I also recognize that people who are not strictly “young adults” (that is, middle to high school students) also read and enjoy YA materials. It’s important to create a space in which all categories of readers feel comfortable seeking material. Due to the nature of age-emphasized environments in many of the public libraries I’ve visited, I can see where “adult” readers may be uncomfortable browsing the YA section of a library. Of course, the section should focus on it’s young adult readers, but it should not alienate any group, either.

I’m looking forward to a great semester and, if you’re wondering what the person who wrote this looks like, look no further than below.

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9 Simple Ways to Hack Your Job Search

Since March, I’ve been seriously applying to jobs.  It’s absolutely a full time job that, unfortunately, doesn’t pay. Many recent grads are in the same boat and, with a sea of job sites to navigate, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to start. Here are some things that I’ve learned while job searching.

1. Network

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s important. Networking can open opportunities for you. They say you’re “six degrees” from anyone you can think of, chances are you’re far fewer than six degrees from a job. Talk to people about what you’re interested in. Return the favor. Even if someone can’t offer you a job or a connection to someone who can offer you a job, networking is a good way to learn how to look for a job and how to talk to people.

An even bigger secret? People have been telling me to network forever. I understood that networking meant talking to people, but I had no idea what to talk about or how to even start those conversations until recently. You’re going to think I’m joking when I tell you this, but I promise, it’s the truth: I learned to network by playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. While you can’t enter personalized responses to things people say, watching those conversations (and their consequences) play out on your tiny phone screen can make a world of difference in how you approach networking in real life. At least, it did for me. Not sure where to meet people? Try joining a Meet Up relevant to your interests. Because Meet Ups are built around hobbies and career interests, there’s already a topic to break the ice.

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2. Keep a List of Keywords

If you’re not looking for a super specific position (like, Professional M&M Taster), keep a list of the keywords you use to search for jobs. This allows you to check back in on those job listings with less hassle and more consistency. It also empowers you to search more creatively. Occasionally, job search engines are smart enough that they will find synonymous listings, but this isn’t always the case. Keep a thesaurus or www.thesaurus.com nearby and handy to help you have a comprehensive search going at all times. Some job search sites also keep a history of your search terms with a number of new jobs posted under those terms since your last visit to their site. This can be helpful, but the history only goes back so far and if you have an extensive list of terms, you’re probably better off keeping track yourself.

3. Track with a Spreadsheet

My “Job Search” spreadsheet is a lifesaver. Every time I apply for a job, I enter it into my database. This not only helps me keep track of the number of jobs I’ve applied to (and thus enables me to be appropriately bitter as I mutter that I’ve applied to ninety-one jobs to no avail and I can prove it), but it also helps me to remember important contact information, passwords for jobs that require a log-in, and a link to the job description should an interview present itself. The categories I use in my spreadsheet are: Job Title, Organization, Link to Post, Date Applied, Location (City), Result of Application, Follow Up (Date), and Notes. When I receive a result, I highlight the row of boxes so I know it’s no longer an active application. You may find other categories more useful to you, but I highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet to help keep your search organized.

4. Add to Hacks to Your Search Terms

It occurred to me recently that many of the hacks you can use to search Google more effectively also apply to other search engines. Use them to your advantage. While some search engines automatically search both “library” and “librarian” when you type just “librarian” in, it’s not necessarily guaranteed. Try typing “librar*” without the quotation marks to search all job posts with the words “librarian” or “library” in it. My favorite alternative search technique is to add a minus sign before the word “intern” to weed out any internships listed in the results. Many of the advanced search techniques in this chart can be transferred to job search sites.

5. Limit Your Searches with Filters

Some job sites, like Simply Hired, allow users to limit search results. Looking for something that requires little experience? Select “0-2 years” under the experience panel. Only interested in working for a non-profit? Click on “non-profit” to find jobs in the non-profit sector. This will save your hours of scrolling through irrelevant search results, thus enabling you to apply to more jobs that better suit your interests and intent.

6. Don’t Just Rely on One Job Site

Although you’ll often be presented with over a thousand search results at just one site, you’ll be better off if you check with multiple sites. My favorites at the moment are Indeed, Idealist, Simply Hired, CareerBuilder, Snagajob, and Monster. Admittedly, I don’t check them all with the same frequency, but even by checking more than one, I increase my chances of finding the right job by quite a bit. It’s unusual to see the same job posted on multiple platforms, so your results are very likely to look totally different. Like your keyword list, take a minute to make a list of sites you want to check on a regular basis and then do it.

7. Check Career-Specific Sites

While I can’t speak for other career paths (though I suspect there are resources for most of them), the library science field has many career-specific resources for job seekers. I Need a Library Job compiles an almost-daily list of job posts with links. The American Library Association has a JobLIST as well. A quick Google search will reveal a number of other resources for job seeking in library and information science and it can help make your search more specific and effective.

8. Follow Librarian Blogs

As an active Tumblr user, it’s easy for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the library job market and trends therein. Of course, Twitter is another useful social media platform to keep up with librarians. With a lot of high profile librarians keeping blogs and other social media accounts, you can watch for advice from the pros. Often, these are the kind of people who can hire you, and I’ve read more than one post on what to and not to do for resumes, cover letters, and interviews in a library setting.

9. Be Optimistic

It’s okay to have glass-half-empty days. Overall, it’s important to keep a positive attitude. If you don’t, it’s likely to show up in your cover letters. Fake confidence until you feel confidence and don’t take rejections personally. When the time and the job is right, it will happen.

 


References

Glu Mobile, Inc. (2014). Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. (Version 1.3.1) Glu Mobile, Inc. video game. San Francisco: Glu Mobile, Inc.

Why I Want to Be a YA Librarian

When I was growing up, my mother brought my brother and me to libraries frequently. I spent a lot of time at the Derry Public Library and the Taylor Library, both located in Derry, New Hampshire. Not only were the libraries a fantastic escape from the heat and humidity of New England summers, but there were books everywhere and I could take them home for free.

As I aged, I began to appreciate the services my local libraries offered to young adults. Writing clubs, craft nights, summer reading programs, and a sense of peace that I struggled to find with my peers at school. At the risk of sounding dramatic and angsty, the library was a place of refuge for middle and high school kids who couldn’t find a place to fit in. What was more, I knew the librarians and people manning the circulation desk wouldn’t judge me. I check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream one week and Twilight the next and no one would so much as sniff at it.

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Libraries open new worlds, both physically and mentally.

I parted from the library for some time while I was in college. Despite studying for a BA in English, I rarely stepped into the campus library or the public library in Roanoke, Virginia. Like many other college students, I couldn’t find time in my schedule to do many of the things I enjoyed so much in high school, including reading for pleasure. Since graduating, I’ve redeveloped an appetite for fiction and a new interest in non-fiction.

My main interest remains, however, in YA fiction. The more I become engaged with “Tumblr activism” and issues of diversity, the more I realize how important representation — seeing one’s self represented accurately, in this instance — is. If I had not read so many dozens of books with characters with whom I identified in high school, I doubt I would have such a strong sense of and comfort in who I am now. While many people assume I want to become a YA librarian solely for the sake of interesting non-readers in reading, this isn’t true. I certainly hope to help find the right book to hook new readers, but I am more interested in providing a safe and non-judgmental space for the population we call “young adults” to read, learn, create, and grow. It was this space that was so important to my development, and so it must be for others. Many young adults do not get the support they need from school, parents, or peers. Librarians can play a huge role in providing mentoring, encouragement, and assistance in the lives of young adults. If I can pick up a few new readers along the way, fantastic. But first and foremost, I want to find the lost boys and girls. Then, I want to open new worlds for them, and help them open their own new worlds.

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