As in all businesses, some customers are better than others.
Over at the Allen County Public Library, there’s a particularly dedicated customer named Meaghan Good.
Good is into true-crime books, which, it turns out, is an exceptionally popular section of the library. Good will go online and look for true-crime books that aren’t available here; she’ll buy them, read them, and when she’s done, she’ll donate them to the library here.
Recently, Good stumbled across a true-crime book on Amazon called "More Cornish Murders" by John Van Der Kiste and Nicola Sly, two authors who are among her favorites.
When she was done reading the book, she gave it to the library.
The job of checking to see whether the library already had a copy of the book fell to Megan Bell in reader services.
Bell went to something called WorldCat, apparently a site that lists just about every book sitting in every library in the world. No, there wasn’t a copy of "More Cornish Murders" in Fort Wayne, but there was a little library called Dittons in Surrey, England, that had it in their collection.
Bell looked at the book Good had donated and discovered it had all the markings of Dittons.
People steal things from libraries. They check them out and never return them. They figure out how to sneak them out of the building. They get books through interlibrary loan and never bring them back.
So Bell, just to be sure, emailed Dittons. Was this theirs? Did they want it back?
Over at Dittons, they weren’t sure. They had had a copy in their collection, but it went missing about three years ago. The problem was that no one was sure whether someone had checked it out or whether the library had deliberately discarded it.
Libraries do discard books. If they have extra copies of a book or it’s no longer popular, they will sell them. In fact, you can buy books at the library through it’s Twice Sold Tales shop.
The title "More Cornish Murders," though, was unusual. It was about 4,000 miles from home.
"We just wanted them to get their book back," if they wanted it, Bell said.
Ultimately, the Surrey County Council decided that no serious crime had happened here and, since it had another copy of the book, it would go ahead and donate the well-traveled book to the Allen County Public Library.
The value is about $3.
From the way it sounds, it’s liable to happen again. Bell said Good has a tendency to read some obscure books – the type of titles that the library normally would not have in its collection – and then give them to the library when she’s done.
"We appreciate it," Bell said. Good has donated 101 books to the library. It’s probably just a matter of time before another one from another library will find its way to Fort Wayne.
"More Cornish Murders," by the way, has already been checked out.
Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.