When you look up a book or item in the online catalog, underneath the call number is the "status" of the item. Most often, you'll see that the book or item is not checked out - which means it should be out in our stacks. If the item is checked out, in this status area is will say "Checked Out" in addition to the date that the item is due. If you really, really need a given book that is checked out, you can have it recalled - and more information about that process is available on the Circulation website .
However, there are a number of other messages that can appear as the status of a given book: recently returned, missing, lost, checked out with no due date, and in process.
Recently returned means exactly what you would think: the book was recently returned by another patron. The status also provides a time stamp that states exactly when the book was returned. In Africana, a recently returned item will almost certainly not yet be back on the shelf; the likely place for a book that was recently returned is either near the Africana Reference Desk where there are trucks of books recently brought up from Circulation, or if the time stamp is within the past day or so, the book will still be down at Circulation on the first floor. You can inquire at the Circulation Desk if that is the case.
Missing and lost have different meanings, but the same impact on you as the user: the book has been looked for and it was not found. They differ in permanence, in that missing books are usually those that have been mis-shelved, misplaced within the library, or overlooked on the stacks by a patron. They are, most likely, somewhere in the building, so they could potentially be found. Lost books, on the other hand, are those that were checked out and never returned, sent out via interlibrary loan and never returned, or some other variation of that "never returned" theme. These are books that may be in the building, but it is much more doubtful that they will ever be found. In either case, if the book you need is missing or lost, you can go to the interlibrary loan office on the first floor and they will help you find a copy of the book.
So it's pretty obvious what "checked out" means, but "checked out; no due date set" usually implies that the item was sent to the bindery to be fixed up - either to be bound in a proper library binding or to be bound with other items in a permanent volume. These items are usually gone for 6-8 weeks, roughly, so again, if you need an item that has this status, check with the interlibrary loan office about getting another copy.
Lastly, we have the elusive "in process." This status is used for items that are currently within the library, in between the acquisition of a book and its cataloging, and before they get put on the shelf. Also included in this category of liminal status states are "On Order" or "Received on [date]; Inquire at Circulation Desk." If you need an item that is in process, you can request the item via an online form .
Thus ends this brief tutorial on the Africana stacks. I hope it was helpful!! Expect an upcoming entry about a soon-to-be Africana exhibit on the 2010 World Cup!