‘So, I had a request today. I’m looking for a book, it’s got blue in the title and it’s about this bracelet….’
That was a message I got on Twitter the other day from Linda, one of the lovely booksellers at Waterstones in Staines, (that’s her below) and it got me to wondering. Luckily for me Linda knows all about my books and (even more luckily!) had some in stock to sell her. But what if she didn’t know about it? How do those librarians and booksellers go about identifying which books that their customers want?
It made me think that there ought to be some sort of app which does it – you feed it the bits of info which you know and *PING* it comes up with all the options which match. There seems to be an app for pretty much everything else. You’d have to put in as much as possible because otherwise you’d have a long, long list (for example: pink book with ‘Girl’ in the title would probably be a nightmare). But then what if the cover wasn’t as pink as you remember, and had actually been classified as red? You’d never find it. So I realised that an app would be hideous to produce and even harder to keep it updated.
But you know what? I bet your bookseller or librarian would still be able to help. Most of them – like Linda – have an encyclopaedic knowledge of books. They’d be able to ask you all sorts of cunning questions like “is it sparkly?” or “short title or long title” or “thick or thin?” and use that info to reach into the deep recesses of those huge bookseller-y brains, and fish out EXACTLY the book you are looking for, however big their shop or library. Booksellers and Librarians do the jobs they do because they love reading, and they want to help others find and love the books as much as they do, however many they have to remember.
I think you should go to your library or your bookshop today and test them out, and then let us know how you get on. Let’s see if we can find out the weirdest description of a book which they still got right! And if there are any bookseller and librarians reading this, what’s the weirdest request you’ve had to decipher? I’d love to know.