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

Reference Question of the Week – 6/28/09

   July 4th, 2009

Chelmsfords mapHere's an appropriate reference question for the Independence Day weekend:

One quirk about living in New England is that many communities got their names from olde England. As such, about once a month my Chelmsford Library is contacted by someone who mistakes us for the library in Chelmsford, Essex, UK*.

To wit:

To: askus /at/ mvlc.org
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 6:52 AM
Subject: Thanks!

On Tuesday I visited Chelmsford with the aim of exploring the surrounding countryside and history. Unfortunately there was no easily found visitor center, or indeed a map with a "you are here" spot on it.

Fortunately I found the public library, and given some wonderful suggestions and a town map. I promptly forgot the name of the young lady working at the help desk who provided all this information, but please thank her very much and possibly consider a supplementary income for her as a town ambassador?

I had one of the nicest afternoons of English countryside I have ever experienced and it would have not happened without her enthusiasm and knowledge.

Once again, thanks a million. I more future visitors to your town have a great day like I did. Cheers!

A very nice message, but the "English countryside" phrase indicated he contacted the wrong Chelmsford Library.

Whenever this happens, I reply to the person saying that while we're always happy to help however we can, they're probably better off contacting the other Chelmsford Library. I also included a note encouraging him to forward his message to them, because feedback like this is important to libraries.

Shortly thereafter, I got this message back:

To: askus /at/ mvlc.org
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 11:17 AM
Subject: RE: Thanks!

Ah! You librarians are a special breed. Thanks for your googling, forgive my ignorance and have a wonderful day. To think that us Antipodeans love to poke fun at a perceived American lack of geographical knowledge. And I email the wrong continent. If you're ever in London Brian, have lunch on me.

It's nice that after 200+ years, we in the colonies are getting the recognition we deserve.

But best of all, he included a link to the restaurant he owns in London. I removed it here for privacy reasons, but that's definitely more than enough incentive to hop across the pond.

The rewards of being a librarian are boundless. I'm telling you, fortune and glory.


*We even once got an email from someone in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, because our branch is named the Anna C. MacKay Library.

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 6/28/09”

  1. michele Says:

    That’s amazing! Plus, it as so nice of him to offer you lunch if you ever went over there! I used to work PT as a Reference Librarian at a university and I can’t tell you how much I loved co-workers and students bringing me food from all over the world! I know that is different from actually going to those places, but I think the sentiment is the same. (By the way, Ghanaian chocolate with lemon, the kind you can only get in Ghana, is amazing!)

  2. Winnie Says:

    What great correspndence! And it’s not just New England that is full of English place names. Pick a town in England and Google it. There will places with that name in Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand just for starters.

  3. Mamie Says:

    That is classic, Brian. I love that he offered you lunch on him–a definite incentive to go visit. You just never know what you’ll run into at the library….