I just finished doing the monthly report that sends delinquent library patrons to collections. It’s just a given that out of all the books that get checked out in any month, you expect that more than a few will either come back damaged or never come back at all.
It’s interesting to see what books tend to be stolen the most. We have trouble keeping books about Wicca and witchcraft. We usually wait to replace them until someone comes in and requests one, and we discover the one we had is gone. Dream interpretation books don’t stick around, and neither do baby name books. We used to keep Esquire and People magazines under the front counter, because half the time the little buggers would grow legs and walk out the front door. We also replace lots of teen novels, like Ellen Hopkins’ Glass. We regularly lose books written by Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and biographies about professional wrestlers.
Those are the givens. Some books that make you shake your head when they disappear include books on starting a small business and exam preparation books. We used to lose issues of Country Woman magazine and books by David Pelzer (A Child Called “It”). This morning at our staff meeting, I discovered that we are losing a lot of Amish fiction books. Amish fiction? Really?
We have one family, a mom, a dad, and their very young daughter, who together have over $700 worth of lost books. Needless to say, none of them are allowed to check out books anymore. Last week, the mom had the chutzpah to appear at the service desk, wanting to get a library card for her mother, so she could check out books to take to her. One of my very smart co-workers told her, “No, I don’t think so.”
In a perfect world the shelves would stay orderly, books would be returned on time and never wear out. Children would say “thank you” when you look up their library card number for the umpteenth time so they can use the computer, or when you help them spell “dinosaur.” But oh, well. I’ll just keep sending library patrons to collections, because that is what I am supposed to do, and see how many books will make their way back home.