The phone rings.
"Hi. I was wondering if you guys have the latest Harry Potter."
It's Sunday, July 17th. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had only just been released the night before at midnight. Since we didn't drag our catalogers out of bed in order to make sure that our copy had a barcode at 12:01 AM, the answer to that question would be no. I try to explain, but get hit with the obvious follow-up:
"Is there a waiting list for the book?"
Again, I have no idea. Until the book is cataloged and (more importantly) given a barcode, it pretty much doesn't exist from the Circ Desk's point of view. I relay as much to my Pottermaniac on Line One, and that since the book is still listed as ON ORDER she'll have to send an email to the cataloging department to get in the queue for it.
"Well if I do that can you tell me how many people are in front of me?"
No. Once the book exists in our catalog, we'll be able to see how many people are in the hold queue. But until then the exact number of Harvard people clamoring for J.K. Rowling's latest offering is between the cataloging department and their email inbox. And neither would be talking until at least Monday morning.
"The waiting list at the public library is like 1200 people."
This seems an insanely high amount, but what do I know about public libraries and bestselling books? I can at least assure the woman on the phone that the list here at Harvard would likely be a couple of orders of magnitude smaller, but this doesn't seem to mollify her.
"Are you sure you can't tell me where I am in line?"
Pretty sure. At this point I really want to ask her why she didn't simply buy the book at midnight, since clearly she's more than just a casual fan. But I don't -- I just try to remain sympathetic while she progressively loses her patience with me.
"So do you think the book will be available tomorrow?"
Somehow I doubted it. No offense to the fans of the Harry Potter series, but generally speaking our faculty, staff, and students have bigger fish to fry. I had no doubt that the book would be available sometime in the near future, but would it be on the Hold Shelf first thing tomorrow morning when we opened our doors? Not bloody likely.
"Well okay then. Bye."
Postscript: So I think our copy of Half-Blood Prince got to the Hold Shelf that Wednesday, but strangely enough I noticed that every day I came back the book was still in the same section of the shelf, waiting for that particular person in the queue to pick it up. Our rule is that you get 10 days to collect it from the Hold Shelf, after which the item is pulled, discharged, and put on the shelf for the next person in the queue.
This person had obviously been keen enough on the book to find and fill out our electronic form for requesting items not yet cataloged, but failed to come in and claim his/her prize once it got a barcode and an item record. I'm assuming that the reason why is that, unable to wait any longer for the much-desired Harry Potter fix, he or she simply went out and bought the book. If this is indeed what happened, why then did the person allow this copy to sit on the Hold Shelf for ten whole days? A dozen people could have enjoyed it in the meantime, had he/she been courteous enough to inform us that the item was no longer needed.
Ah, well. For all I know, everyone in our hold queue ended up buying the book!