Subscribe With Bloglines


international librarian of mystery

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Library news from around the world

First up is the British Library team who have won the inaugural 'University Challenge - the Professionals' competition in the UK.
The tournament, which began in April 2004, featured teams from 22 of the UK's brainiest professions (including diplomats, journalists, lawyers, politicians and zoologists), and culminated in last night's battle of the 'bookmen'.
Had to bite my tongue hearing at least two of those professions described as 'brainy'. Anyway, those 'bookmen' (err, bookpeople, perhaps?) were the aforementioned Library team, and their opposition, a group of professionals from the Oxford University Press. The librarians, naturally, took out the final 220-160 in what was, apparently, a 'thrilling' match.

The outcome was not surprising when you consider their credentials. Legends, one and all. Kathryn Johnson, Curator of Theatrical Manuscripts has, amongst other geeky endeavours, won the Magnum trophy (awarded to the winner of the Mastermind Club annual competition) five times. Ron Hogg, a Slavonic specialist can speak six languages and has a working knowledge of another ten. Colin Wight and editor of the Library's website (the weak link, one might argue) is another multi-linguist (great trivia: he was brought up in Java and the Wirral). And team captain Bart Smith, a humanities reference specialist (my dream job) "...is notorious among friends and work colleagues for his memory for trivia (such as telephone dialling codes) and an ability to identify within seconds the day of the week upon which a particular date fell."

Such incredible library geeks - I am in awe.

The other bit of more local library news that has been making a bit of a splash in the New Zealand media - to the point of being one of the top items on the TV news the other night - is the gang of book thieves that has been busted after having stolen at least 350 valuable and rare books. They used numerous nefarious methods to nick the precious and usually irreplaceable volumes from various university, public and special libraries around the country. They then sold them to unsuspecting (and not so unsuspecting, it turns out) second-hand book dealers. No doubt a few also went directly to private dealers or onto ebay and trademe.

Determining just which books have gone missing is proving to be a logistical nightmare in itself, with the collections involved obviously being massive, and a quick shelf-check/stock-take not being on the cards. Likewise the true value of the books that have been stolen...
Canterbury University Librarian Gail Pattie, who has been helping police searching for stolen books, said determining the value of a book was a relative exercise and depended on what the market wished to pay.

"Sometimes they don't look valuable at all," she said indicating an anonymous-looking dusty tome of Persian history, which had a $US200 ($NZ295) price tag inside.
She also gets the prize for best, if not most obvious, quote of the week.
"Libraries collect these things to share them and to use them," she said. "To have them stolen is completely different. We don't mind loaning them to people, but we do expect them to come back."

Seven people have been arrested so far, although police are hinting a few more might be picked up in the next few days.

I hope they, err, throw the book at the lot of them.

UPDATE. As I suspected, online auction sites have been used to try and sell some of the books. The Police are combing through Trademe's auctions, and have identified the username "thetrenches" as being one of the suspected ring members. More info here.

[Thanks to Cracker and Mr K for links to those stories]