First of all, thanks for the question, and my apologies for the delay
As for experience, well, I've always been a big reader, so the book
questions are particularly interesting to me. Also, I like the
The main resources that I use, in addition to the basic Google search, are:
The Library of Congress catalog:
And used book sites, such as abebooks.com:
If it?s a relatively new book (e.g., less than 7 or 8 years old), a
basic Google search is usually my first step because there?s a good
chance of hitting a review, the author's web site, etc.
For older books, it becomes more of a challenge. The LOC catalog is
good for children's fiction, but adult fiction seems to be poorly
classified, so I usually turn to one of the used book sites or Google.
A lot depends on the customer's description. It's fascinating to me
what folks remember about books. If they remember a lot and key plot
details, then the question is often pretty easy. For example, here:
In that question, the customer remembered not only the key plot device
(teen with invisibility), but also important details.
Sometimes, customers remember specific details that are relatively
minor, but unusual enough to distinguish the book. In one of the
first book identification questions that I ever did, a customer was
looking for a book that involved a man going back and forth between
parallel worlds. There area a lot of books about parallel worlds, but
the customer remembered that in one of the worlds, the Kennedy
assassination hadn't taken place. That sort of detail can help
identify the book.
You've probably experienced the same thing in your library work, but
the hardest questions are often those in which the customer remembers
it wrong. Mentally, one of the most difficult things to do is to
IGNORE major parts of the description that you?re given. For example,
in this question, the customer was asking for a book about a Chinese
child, a shoe and a duck.
I probably spent a couple hours doing searches using the words
Chinese or China, just because that seemed to be such an important
detail. I figured that any description of the book was going to use it
(e.g., "Wonderful Chinese tale," "Delightful story about a Chinese
girl," etc.). But that detail was useless because it was wrong.
Turned out that the book was about a Japanese child! It seems
counterintuitive to ignore major details that the customer claims to
be part of the book, but sometimes that?s what you must do to answer
I hope this helps.