Libraries and Las Vegas

By Elaine Viets


Libraries are like Las Vegas.
The bookies may look different, but the attitude is the same: What happens at the library, stays there.
In Checked Out, my 14th Dead-End Job Mystery, private eye Helen Hawthorne’s search for a missing million dollars hidden in a South Florida library leads to murder. Meanwhile, her private eye husband and partner, Phil, is booked to broil in the sun while he hunts for a ruby necklace stolen at a scandalous party.
I researched Checked Out by volunteering at my local library. That’s where I learned that libraries don’t blab about their patrons.
Helen found this out when she was snooping through the browser histories in the library’s computers. Alexa, the library director, caught her. Here’s the scene:

 “Helen!” Alexa said.
 Helen jumped. She didn’t hear Alexa enter the room.
  “Please tell me you aren’t violating our patrons’ privacy by reading their browsing history,” Alexa said.
 “Uh,” Helen said.
 “I’ll excuse you this time, since you didn’t know,” Alexa said. “But we don’t release information on what our patrons check out. We don’t tell anyone their reference questions. Actually, we don’t keep records on those, though some of our librarians keep lists of unusual questions.
 “We also consider database searches, interlibrary loans, any materials or equipment they use, even library fines and lost books, private information. Even law enforcement agencies can’t have this information unless they get a subpoena.
 “Now, are we clear on this policy?” 
 “Yes,” Helen said. “A library is like Las Vegas. What happens here, stays here.”
 Alexa looked a little startled, then said, “Yes, that’s correct. Unless a patron breaks the law in the library, then we call the police.”

This is good news for mystery writers. It means if our editor is found with a knife in her heart after she butchered our novel, the police can’t check the library computer where we researched “How to Stab Someone and Get Away With It” without a subpoena. And by that time, they’ll have caught the real killer.
I thought the libraries and Las Vegas line had promo possibilities: Both librarians and patrons would appreciate it. I asked Kelly Nichols, one-half of the talented PJ Parrish writing team, to make me a meme. (Which rhymes with “theme.” I found that on the Internet, so I know it’s true.)
VietsMeme12x18 Now I have this free downloadable poster on my Website,
But I wanted more. I also have Elaine Viets Merchandise, and my Webmaster made this T-shirt.T-shirt
Take my meme to heart, library lovers. Better yet, wear it over your heart.
 Check out the freebies and good offers at
 (1) Download the Libraries and Las Vegas poster on the Home Page.
(2) Buy the T-shirt on the  Merchandise Page.
(3) Win a free hardcover Checked Out by clicking Contests at


This entry was posted in Writing by Elaine Viets. Bookmark the permalink.

About Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series, including 15 Dead-End Job mysteries. BRAIN STORM, her first Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, is published as a trade paperback, e-book, and audio book.

10 thoughts on “Libraries and Las Vegas

  1. That’s interesting (and good) to know~ I think if anyone tried to profile me by my checkout history they’d be hard pressed to make any sense out of it as to motivation(s)~ tho thy might deduce ADD or a touch of OCD.

  2. In library school, the professors drilled into us the importance of patrons’ freedom of speech rights, and how we were to protect those rights the same as journalists shielded their sources, Catholic priests protected the sanctity of confessional revelations, and lawyers upheld client privilege. Yes, they compared us to journalists, priests, and lawyers.

    That was before most public libraries had automated their processes, so there were always those tell-tale circulation cards brandishing names and dates of borrowers, if a nosy person knew which specific books to look for.

    On another note: I’m having lunch with a former colleague in two weeks & may have to buy her a Checked Out mug. On your website, it says the contest for the hardcover book begins and ends on 4/2/15.

    • “…comparedd… to journalists, priests, and lawyers….”?

      Mixed crowd~ can y’all sue?


  3. My new book’s protag is a birder. (the not-so PC term is birdwatcher, which I didn’t know until my birder friend source SJ Rozan not-so-gently corrected me). Anywho, I had to do a lot of bird watching research and you’d think that would result in pretty tame browsing history. Until I got to….


    This is a beloved birding term for a special ability to figure out a species just by hearing its call or glimpsing its feathers or just having a sixth sense about it. Well, my editors went sorta crazy when they saw it because of course it has come to mean icky stuff in our popular culture. So I had to go find out exactly what the icky stuff was so I could defend using jizz.

    Jizz is…well, you can go look it up if you don’t know.

    But for birders, jizz is special and it actually comes from an aviation term in WWI. My editor, who is very good, let me keep it. But not without a fight.

    • Aren’t the fights with editors always over the stupid stuff? “Jizz” is important to your book, don’t get me wrong. but you feel silly having to defend what’s an iffy word under other circumstances. It’s hard to feel noble fighting for the right to use that four-letter word.

  4. Yikes! Thank you! That’s what I get for having cheap help post contests and events on my Website. The contest is open now and ENDS 4/30.
    I’m impressed by how seriously librarians take patrons’ privacy — and very appreciative. We mystery writers Google some gory stuff.

Comments are closed.