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

Reference Question of the Week – 5/8/11

   May 14th, 2011

Amber HagermanI'm using this question because, well, it's not funny, but I did find it remarkable.

One afternoon, a high school girl walked up to the desk and said she has to do a report on the girl that started the Amber Alert.

She wasn't sure what that Amber's full name was, and I didn't know either, but a quick internet search for just amber alert led to the Wikipedia article that gave the little girl's full name: Amber Hagerman.

I searched our catalog for her name, but got no results. Before I took the girl to our biography encyclopedias to just start flipping through the indexes, I wanted to check our Gale biography database. I logged in from our website, searched for her name, and saw this:

Screen capture from Gale Biography in Context database

Occupation: Victim? Really? I'm sure that's just the name of the field, and they had to put something in there, and for 99% of the biographies, the person's occupation is why they are famous. But my gosh, how sad.

It didn't phase my patron one bit, but the articles from the database didn't actually help much. We checked a couple other databases, and between that and resources and references on the Wikipedia articles, she felt we found enough. She left happy, but that "Victim" listing really bothered me.

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5 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 5/8/11”

  1. Stephen Francoeur Says:

    Another WIN for Gale databases!

  2. Magical Metadata Fairy #52 Says:

    … and that’s why labeling fields is such a wonderful thing! Nobody knows what data means unless you label it. Then it’s perfectly clear, right?

  3. Elisabeth Says:

    I first noticed this a while back when searching for Emmett Till. He, too, is listed as “victim”. My other “favorite” Gale occupations? Murderer (Susan Smith, Lizzie Bordon) and Serial Killer (Albert Fish, Ted Bundy).

  4. Heather Booth Says:

    Wow, I find this really sad. Other “victims” listed include Rodney King, Matthew Shepherd, and Elizabeth Smart: perhaps better labeled a “spokesperson, unintentional” an “activist, posthumous” and a “survivor”.

  5. Emily Zervas Says:

    Noticed while helping a patron: another Gale Biography In Context Occupation is “werewolf”.