Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: I know what kind of book I want but I can't find it!

How to find that hard-to-find book

Kids looking for booksQ: I know exactly what kind of book my son/daughter likes but it is kind of hard to describe.  Can you help me find some good titles that we would like?

A:  Yes, we would love to help!  One of the best book requests I ever heard from a parent was for picture books "where there is a lot of things to look at."  It turned out her four year old son loved pouring over elaborate illustrations with lots of little details to explore.  And guess what?  There are lots of children's picture books that fit the bill!  The tricky part for this parent was to find those types of books on the shelf when there isn't a keyword for "detailed pictures" or "lots to see" in the library catalog.  So how do we find something her son will enjoy?

Looking for books with a certain feel, tone, or specific trait can sometimes be tough.  We can easily find books about "dogs," "soccer" or "princesses" with keyword searches but looking for titles with more abstract qualities like "quiet,"  "old fashioned" or "fun to look at" can be a lot harder since they aren't usually described in library catalogs that way.  Luckily, children's librarians read, hear about and see hundreds of picture books each year and are happy to help you find what you are envisioning!

In the case of the mom I mentioned above, it wasn't books like I Spy or Where's Waldo that interested this young reader.  Instead, it was simply books that had illustrations with lots to see.  A book with something new and special to find during each reading,  little treasures in each picture.

Here are just a few books that have "lots of things to look at" and I bet a lot of other curious kids would love them too!




This is all also true for books other than picture books and for readers of all ages.  Just last week, I had a 5th grader ask for "sad books" and another ask for "chapter books that will help me learn new words."  Neither of these descriptions are in the library catalog but there are tons of books are just what these readers were looking for!  It is the same for adult readers who know they love "gritty" books or "tragic" books or "nonfiction that reads like fiction."  Librarians love to help with these types of inquiries so don't be shy! 

If you want to dig in yourself and find the *perfect* picture book, check out A to Zoo: Subject Access Guide to Children's Picture Books.  This reference book is available for browsing at all OPL locations and has over 1000 pages of booklists for subjects ranging from common ideas like "earth" and "friendship" to more obscure and specific topics like "emotions-embarrassment" and "character traits - orderliness."  It is great fun, if picture books are your idea of fun!

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. 

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