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

Reference Question of the Week – 8/1/10

   August 7th, 2010

It's been a busy week - lots of people on vacation, so we're both short-staffed and busier than usual - and often I've been rushing from one patron to the next without much of a break in between. However, this patron's question stopped me short:

Patron: Can you show me where to put my UTI?

I was almost convinced she couldn't possibly mean a "urinary tract infection," but she immediately turned around and walked off toward the public computers - curiosity (and customer service) got the better of me, so I followed her over.

When we got back to her computer, she pointed at the screen and said,

See, there's no place for me to type in my web address UTI.

Okay - she meant URL (thank goodness). It's an easy fix to turn back on the Navigation Toolbar in Firefox:

Firefox Toolbar menus

While doing that, I said something like, "there, now you can type your URL in the box." When she heard me say "URL," she replied,

Oh, that's it, URL. I knew what I said didn't sound right.

No, it did not.

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2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 8/1/10”

  1. debzanne Says:

    How often do patrons say weird mixed up things to you? (That’s my question for the week.)

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @debzanne: well, pretty much every day. Usually it’s minor things, but sometimes a bit more significant, like this question. Common confusions are

    • books with the same title (or phonetically the same, like The Alchemist and The Alchemyst)
    • patrons confusing the names of our meeting spaces: the Meeting Room, the Conference Room, the Quiet Study Room – I can’t blame them for that, but it does lead to problems
    • patrons asking for a book on Wales, and we take them to the section on whales
    • people saying they’re having trouble with the copier, when they actually mean the printer

    That’s a small (and petty) sampling, but yeat, it’s common.