Okay – here’s a reflection on a request I received recently.

A patron came to the checkout counter with a book which had been reserved for her by one of my colleagues.  It wasn’t the book she was looking for but she was happy to take it.  What she really wanted was a copy of The Nun’s Story which she had seen on tv recently.  Did I know if we had it?

I think I saw The Nun’s Story 500 years ago – enough to know that Audrey Hepburn was in it – which is immaterial really but at least I knew the movie.

The minute I hear that a patron wants a book based on a movie I want to go to the Internet Movie Database or IMDB.

I didn’t know who wrote the book or even if it had the same title as the movie but IMDB would tell me for sure.  And it did.  Kathryn Hulme was the author. You can read all about the movie here

Before I went to IMDB I did cursorily searched our catalogue.  If you look under Title – The Nun’s Story – Keywords you get 4 results – one of which is Through the Narrow Gate: a nun’s story by Karen Armstrong, which was what my colleague reserved.

Now that I had the author’s name from IMD  I looked under Hulme, Kathryn in our cataloge.  Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

Then I looked under Hulme and scrolled through all the Hulmes and found it.  I’m here to tell you that you won’t find it in the Public Catalogue because I have just tried to do so from home on the web.  I suspect this is because it is a Stack book i.e. one we keep out the back…it’s kind of precious or very old or hasn’t been borrowed much lately but we can’t bear to chuck it.  Note to self check what the selection criteria are for Stack.

What’s my point?  Well I guess it is that sometimes you have to use other databases to find something in your own catalogue.  Depressing but true.  Maybe I’m just not an expert user yet.  I’d be interested in experts’ opinions on this point.

Also I’m interested in how persistent I had to be in my searching to find the answer.  I probably should document my searches and the results each time.  Presumably the goal is to get the answer in the least number of searches.  I worry that I could have stopped at some point and said “We don’t have it.” when in fact we did.

Finally, my gut feeling is that if the patron hadn’t asked the librarian she might never have found the book on our catalogue even if she was an expert searcher because of the way our catalogue is structured – some information e.g. stack books is hidden from the public.

Other thoughts, if I hadn’t found the title in our own collection I think I would then have gone to Trove-  which is a great way of checking other library’s catalogues.  There are 21 copies held in Australian libraries according to Trove.

You can also get a Daisy copy here

A Daisy is a digital audio copy via the OCLC if you have challenges using regular printed media.

If I’d had no luck with IMDB then I would have gone to my old favourite Librarything  which is my other backup particularly when trying to find things out such as if a book is part of a series and so on.  At a glance I was able to find that Kathryn Hulme was an American writer who lived and died in Hawaii.  The link to the Wikipedia article on Hulme which then led me to the Wikipedia article on Marie Loouise Habets her life partner which reveals that The Nun’s Story is in fact out of print – probably due to lack of clarity in the literary estate about who owns the rights and who can give permissions….

131 copies copies are currently available on Abebooks   Interestingly I find that there is a Print on Demand version via Nabu press (so much for it being out of print).  Presumably they’ve sorted out copyright.

I could go on but I won’t…an assignment needs to be written.  What adaptation have you seen or read recently?  What catalogues/databases do you like to use?

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