Misplaced library books is a common problem in my middle school library, and it 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.) Many kids were too worried to ask about a missing book, but when they finally did, I’d check and the book had usually been returned. They were puzzled—since they hadn’t returned it—but relieved they wouldn’t have to pay for a lost book.
I think we’d all agree that forgetting and misplacing things is universal, even among adults, so it’s important to be patient with our young ones who are, after all, just learning to be responsible. One day I joked that these missing books must have “legs,” and thus, was born a story that became very popular in my school.
Kids have carried this story with them to other schools—even other states—so if you hear about this from one of your students, as have other librarians, it’s probably made its way to you through the migratory nature of our modern school populations.
THE SCHOOL LIBRARY SECRET
I always tell this story to 6th graders at their second library visit. 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, a couple kids raise their hands and I say, “See, they got one of those Books with Legs!” We all laugh, I’ve relieved those tender little minds of future worry, and they know I’m not some crazed librarian who will track them down and threaten them with dire consequences if they have a missing book! (I’ve seen those kinds of librarians and they scare me too!)
Our school has a highly transient school population, and almost a third of our higher grades have new-to-our school kids, so when the older students come in for their first library visit, a newbie always asks about lost library books. It’s such a pleasure 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, throughout the school year, a student is at the circulation desk telling me about a book they can’t find and another student standing there jumps in and says, “Oh, you got a Book with Legs!”
“The Secret” is so well known in our school that even teachers and custodians coming in to return a book left in a classroom or public area say, “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, too, have the problem of misplaced books, feel free to use my video story, available on YouTube and Vimeo! If you want to tell the story yourself, here’s the script—and be sure to tell it in a dramatic, secretive 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 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’s room. 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.
Remember, 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!