or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 5/17/09

   May 23rd, 2009

sweet potato crunch pieSometimes I am fascinated by the lives of patrons. The phone rings...

Patron: Can you tell me where to buy sweet potato crunch pie? The Hannaford store by me stopped carrying it, and I called the company in Gardner, Maine, but they won't send me any because they only sell to distributors.

Sweet potato crunch pie? I told her I'd need some time to research this, took down her phone number, and said I'd call her back.

I started with just a general internet search for sweet potato crunch pie, which had a surprisingly large number of results. Mostly they were recipes, but on the first page was the Gardner Pie Company, which I guessed was the brand this patron wanted.

It turns out this company is in Akron, OH, not Gardner, ME, and unfortunately, they didn't have a listing on their website of where people can buy their pies. Even though the patron said she already called them, I thought I'd contact them anyway to see what I could learn.

As it happened, I learned a lot, so maybe it's all in how you phrase your question. Instead of asking if they would send me pies, I asked where I could buy them in Massachusetts. The Sales Manager said they are sold through Hannaford and Roche Brothers grocery stores, and that most roadside farmer's markets carry them, too.

I called the patron back with this information, and she was happy. Even though the Hannafords in her town stopped carrying them, she said there was a Roche Brothers in the next town over, so she'd try them. I also gave her the numbers of a few caterers I found while searching, on the off chance that they'd be willing to send the pies directly to her.

Not really difficult, but it made me laugh: in library school I learned how to provide bibliographic instruction, how to be an intellectual freedom fighter, and how to structure the architecture of metadata, and yet I spend my days searching out pie mongers.

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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 5/17/09”

  1. Oleg K. Says:

    I would choose pie over bibliographic instruction anyday.

    Just saying.

  2. Bookie Says:

    I just have one question for you. How do you get an awesome job like yours? Do -all- reference librarians get to discover cool stuff through the inquiries of their patrons?

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    Ha – I got this job because, well, they were hiring. But I know I got lucky, as my personal views and interests match up very will with my library, so it was a good fit. But I imagine most librarians get questions like this – actually, I imagine anyone who works with the public gets their share of entertainment (as well as the opposite).

  4. Cari Says:

    Mmmmm, sweet potato crunch pie. I bet that since I live in Akron, I can find some!

  5. pandamans Says:

    Wow. I’ll have to remember this. I’d say you went the extra mile – as I would have just given the patron the contact information for the company. I guess I just don’t give exemplary service.

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @pandamans: thank you. For some reason, I actually enjoy calling places on behalf of patrons. But also, in this particular question, the patron said she had already called them with no luck, which is why I just went ahead and did it myself.