On a Saturday morning more than a month ago a regular patron of the Allen County Public Library, Meaghan Good, dropped off four books for donation to the main library. This is not unusual as Meaghan is always donating books to us. To date she has donated 107 books and 2 DVD’s. What caught my eye on this occasion was the markings on one of the books she donated. The title was, “More Cornish Murders,” by John Van Der Kiste and Nicola Sly and it still had a spine label, barcode, and markings from the Dittons Library in Surrey, England.
As with all titles donated to us I looked in World Cat to see how many libraries held this title, but also to see if the Dittons Library still had a record for the book. I was very surprised to find they did. I happened to be working with my boss, Carol, and asked her if I should contact the library in England to be sure someone hadn’t sold Meaghan stolen goods over the Internet. Carol also thought this was a good idea so I contacted the library via email. The library responded telling me the book had been a part of their collection, but three years ago — whether because the book was stolen or removed for book sale — it was taken out of their collection. They said we should feel free to add it to our collection.
I was very excited by the news because it made us the only library in North America to hold the title. Carol and I were both intrigued by the book’s story, but thought this was the end of the tale and did not give it another thought. The following Monday I was contacted by a senior member of the Surrey County Council in England, Kevin Richardson. He introduced himself, asked me to take some photos, and if I could get some information from Meaghan regarding how she came by the book. He mentioned it would make a nice story and we honestly thought he was going to share it locally with colleagues and patrons of the library. I gathered the information he requested and sent it to him in the following days, again thinking this is the end of the story.
Well, I was wrong!!! Kevin contacted me several days later explaining the Surrey County Council was in charge of the 800th anniversary celebration being held in Runnymede, England the following week. This is where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 giving landowners more rights and some separation from King John. They gave the story a very neat twist and planned to release it in conjunction with the event being held the following week. The really cool part about the event was part of the Royal Family was attending. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Princess Royal, & The Duke of Cambridge attended the festivities along with England’s prime minister, David Cameron, and several American dignitaries.
Again I thought, “Okay the story has finally run its course, I will not be hearing anything else about it.” And again I was surprised when I received a phone call from the BBC in England requesting a radio interview about the book and how we came by it. They released the interview and Tweeted about the story a few days later.
Once it was released to their media our media picked up on it, but only locally. The Journal Gazette contacted me for an interview and sent someone to take pictures.
It has been fun to see how one little book garnered so much attention for traveling 4,000 miles from its home location. I was not expecting any of this when I contacted the library in England. I was trying to be honest and fair. If the book belonged in their collection I wanted them to have it back. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got contacted by the Surrey County Council and was told they were releasing the story in conjunction with the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The fact the Royal Family was going to be in attendance was the icing on the cake for me. A lot of my friends were saying, “They should fly you over there!” I was all for it. I could have learned to curtsy.
My favorite side story from the whole affair was when the BBC called me. They actually tried to contact me at the library, but I worked the late shift and wasn’t in. The library contacted me at home and gave me the numbers to call the BBC and speak with them. I have never, in my life, made an international phone call. I didn’t even know how to do it. Come to find out neither of my phones would call internationally.
Fortunately I had an email address for the man interviewing me, Mike Buxton. I contacted him via email explaining my situation and leaving my phone number. I knew I would be hearing from him soon because of the time change and I had a dilemma. I have two small children. Our son is four years old, and our daughter is almost one. As anyone with little ones is aware they can be loud and unpredictable especially when you need them not to be. It’s one of Newton’s Laws. Look it up. So I made the baby a bottle she could have done without, and bribed our son. I told him, “Mommy is expecting a very important phone call. If you sit quietly and watch Curious George while I talk I will let you open a birthday gift and have any candy you want.” He got huge eyes and agreed readily. I knew he would be fine.
When Mike called back I laid the baby in her crib, gave her the bottle, pushed play on the TV, and went in the bedroom to complete the interview. The kids were perfect and the interview was fun. If I had not made a plan, however, half of England would have heard my kids screaming about this, that, and the other thing as kids are wont to do.
The story has run its course. I have had my 15 minutes of fame and it was fun. I would like to think the Queen saw the story and admirably thought, “How Sherlock Holmes of her.” I also feel that Prince William and Princess Kate sat and had a lovely chat about us here at the Allen County Public Library. A girl can dream, right?!