One of my assignments in the children’s department is to keep track of all our missing books. No matter how detail-oriented our lending program is, sometimes books just wander away. When that happens, librarians get into our cataloging system and mark the item as missing so that patrons won’t try to check it out. Inexplicably the letter code used to mark a book as missing is the letter ‘G’.
Regularly, I get into our system and generate a list of all the missing books. Then I go looking for them. More often than not, the books show back up in a day, a week, or a month. I suspect that well-loved library books—like well-loved librarians—sometimes need a vacation. But they return before too long, quietly slipping back onto the shelf and leaving us wondering where they’ve been. When I find these books I change the status from ‘G’ for missing to ‘I’ for checked-in.
However, there is another type of library book. The kind that feels they must go out into the world and find themselves. As is the common result of such trips, these books never attain fulfillment and can’t face returning to their home in the same cover they left in. I give these books several months to return. When it’s clear that they refuse, I change the status from ‘G’ for missing to ‘UN’ for unavailable. Now the book won’t appear in the catalog at all, and after a couple weeks the record is removed from our system, making space for us to acquire a replacement copy.
We love our library books and want them all to be healthy, happy, and safe. If you ever find one of our books wandering alone in the wide-word, sit down with it. Let it express its feelings and don’t be afraid to share yours in return. Then, when both of you are feeling better, bring it back home to the library. Because deep in their hearts, library books love the library just as much as we love them.