A common problem in my middle school library was misplaced library books, which often kept kids from wanting to check out more books. A few might tell me their book was “stolen.” (A common middle school reason for anything misplaced or lost.) Some kids were too worried to ask about a missing book, but they finally did; I’d check and the book was usually returned. They were puzzled but relieved they wouldn’t have to pay for a lost book.
One day I joked that these missing books must have ‘legs.’ Thus, was born a story that became very popular in my school. Kids carried the story with them to other schools—even other states—so if you, as have other librarians, hear this from one of your students, it’s probably made its way to you through the transience of our school population.
I always tell the story to 6th graders at their second library visit, to relieve their tender little minds of future worry. Here’s the story told as a visual show.
Of course, 6th graders aren’t quite sure if what I’m saying is true, and a bold one will challenge me, so I ask “Is anyone already missing a library book?” Sure enough, I always have a couple kids raise their hands and I say, “See, they got one of those Books with Legs!” We all laugh and they appreciate that forgetting is universal, plus they know they won’t have to worry about some crazed librarian tracking them down and threatening them with dire consequences if they have a missing book!
(I’ve seen those kinds of librarians and they scare me too!)
With our highly transient school population, higher grades also have many new-to-our school kids, so when older students have their first library visit, some newbie asks about lost library books. My greatest pleasure comes when another student who’s come up from 6th grade says, “Tell them The Secret, Ms. P!” and I get to tell the story again.
Often a student is at the circulation desk telling me about a book they can’t find and another student standing there says, “Oh, you got a Book with Legs!” Even teachers and custodians come in to return a book left in a classroom or public area saying, “Here’s one of those Books with Legs!”
Now, should you, dear reader, doubt that my story is true,
let me just say that I’ve had very few lost or “stolen” books,
but I’ve seen thousands of Books With Legs.
(Sometimes, when I’m at school late,
I can even hear them partying in the halls!)
If you want to tell the story yourself, here’s the script—but be sure to tell it in a secretive, dramatic voice!
Lean in close, because I have to tell you a Secret and I don’t want any of the books to hear me.
This is a very special library because ALL OUR BOOKS HAVE LEGS!!
You know how you’re sure you put a book in your locker, or left it in a certain room and when you go to get the book it isn’t there? That’s because at night, when we’ve all gone home, the books all come out into the halls and they PARTY all night long. At the end of the night they forget where they came from so they just go into the closest room. And that’s why you can’t find your book!
You’ll discover that book you left in Language Arts shows up in the gym, or the book you left in Math ends up in some other grade. They aren’t lost—they were partying and forgot where they belonged! Now sometimes they come back to the library (because that’s where all their friends, the other books, are), so you can always come ask me to see if the book is here in the library.
So, it’s very important to keep a tight hold on your library books, because if you don’t, they’re gonna party and end up who knows where!