Searching for a half-remembered book

It’s that time of year again where we welcome a new batch of PGCE students to the library. Welcome!

One of the first assignments the PGCEs are given involves writing about favourite childhood books. We can all remember stories we loved to hear as a child, and can probably still visualise the pictures on the pages. But it can be harder to dredge up the name of the author, or even the title! How do you go about finding a book in situations like this?

Uncle Edgar's Mystery Book Store by Nick Winterhalter on Flickr

Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Book Store by Nick Winterhalter on Flickr

If the author or part of the title is known, then the library catalogue is a good place to start. You can access our catalogue online at http://heritage.homerton.cam.ac.uk/ or in the Library from either of the catalogue terminals by the lift on the ground floor.

Often if you know the author then going and physically looking at the books on the shelves in the right section is the best way to spot what you are looking for. All of our children’s books are shelved on the top floor. The vast majority of the children’s books will be at the following classmarks, and within this they are shelved alphabetically by the author’s surname:

811 American poetry
812 American drama
813 American fiction
821 English poetry
822 English drama
823 English fiction

Another place to look if you know the author is an author bibliography. This can usually be found on the author’s official website or on their Wikipedia page. The good thing about official websites is they are usually very visual and have images of the covers of the books which may help spark off a memory. Here’s Michael Morpurgo’s bibliography for example: http://michaelmorpurgo.com/all-books

If you can remember only a few details about the book, then social media can be extremely useful for sourcing an answer. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, make the most of your network by asking for help! If you also ask your friends to share or retweet your question you can reach a large number of people very quickly and it is fairly likely that someone will remember the book you are thinking of.

There are a number of excellent children’s literature blogs which have reviews and lists of books. The author of http://www.playingbythebook.net/ tags her posts with the subjects of the book, which can be useful if you’re searching for a book on a particular topic.

And of course if you’re stuck, you can always ask a librarian!

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About homlib

The Library of Homerton College, University of Cambridge.
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2 Responses to Searching for a half-remembered book

  1. Zoe says:

    Great list of suggestions :-) I find asking the members of the Rutgers CHild Lit list (https://email.rutgers.edu/mailman/listinfo/child_lit) or the Jiscmail children’s literature list (https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=children-literature-uk) also helpful. THe latter list in particular is used to this sort of request, and although it is predominantly a US list, members are from all over the world. As these are professional lists I wouldn’t flood them with requests, but the occasional one is often seen as an enjoyable challenge to the list, in my experience.

  2. homlib says:

    Thanks for adding to our list Zoe!

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