Metro

‘You know, that book with the red cover’ — library pokes fun at patrons’ vague requests

@Metafrantic/Framingham Library

Librarians deal with it all the time: Patrons who wander in and approach the front desk in desperate search of a book, armed with little to no information about its actual title.

“It had a [something] in it,” people might say.

Or, more frequently, “I think there was a [something] on the cover.”

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These inquiries may be difficult to solve. But they also inspired staff members at the Framingham Public Library this month to assemble a cart that takes a playful potshot at such befuddled book lovers.

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Positioned in the fiction section is an array of books that happen to have red covers. A sign above it says “I Don’t Remember the title, but the cover was Red.”

To the library’s surprise, the slightly-sarcastic book arrangement teasing bewildered bibliophiles has seemed to resonate with both readers and librarians. An innocent picture of the display posted to Twitter this week by one of the library’s workers has gone viral, amassing accolades from tens of thousands of people and working its way onto BuzzFeed and Mashable. As of Thursday afternoon, the tweet had been shared more than 43,000 times.

“I think we aren’t really sure how it exploded, but you know how these things are,” said Lena Kilburn, Framingham Library’s assistant director. “It had the right look to get a lot of attention, I guess.”

The original tweet said, “When libraries troll their patrons,” and included a picture of the display.

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But Kilburn said there was no malice behind the concept; the library often comes up with quirky ideas for how to best merchandise what they have on the shelves.

“We have some really creative staff members who thought it would be a fun way to showcase books that wouldn’t otherwise be found or discovered,” she said.

In the case of the now-viral book display, she said it gives people a glimpse into the lives of librarians, and the types of questions they field daily.

“People will come in all the time and ask funny questions,” she said.

They say things like, “I can’t remember the title” but “there was one character in the book that I remember,” said Kilburn.

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She said librarians then get to work to try to solve the mystery.

“They do detective work and piece it all together,” she said, adding that librarians enjoy the challenge and are happy to oblige. “We love our patrons and love when they ask us questions that give us a minute to think. It’s just all part of the job.”

The new red display, which coincides with the Valentine’s Day holiday, has gone beyond providing a laugh for people on the Internet. Apparently, it’s also inspired others to follow suit:

Of course, Framingham wasn’t the first community to tap such a playful method for grabbing the reader’s attention. Other libraries have used a similar strategy:

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.