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



Reference Question of the Week – 8/5/12

   August 11th, 2012

Chicken photoSome of my favorite reference questions are those that I can answer from personal experience. If a patron asks a question about hiking, knitting, shooting, history, woodworking, seaglass, gold panning, technology, or any of a variety of my other hobbies, I can do more than just find books or resources for them. Personal touches like this can make a good library experience a great community connection.

But of course, the opposite is true. Last week, a patron walked up to the desk and laid this on me:

I won a whole chicken in a Church raffle over the weekend. The women there told me to cook it at 375 degrees, but didn't say how long. How long do you cook a chicken?

Cooking is not one of my hobbies. I know how long it takes to cook minute rice, but that's about it. I felt dumb, but I honestly had no idea how long it takes to cook a chicken.

But I do know where our cookbooks are. To save time, I searched our catalog for "chicken recipes" and The best chicken recipes looked promising.

I gave it to the patron, who didn't look too impressed - he wanted a time, not a book. I made some comment about my cooking abilities (or lack thereof), and with no coworker around for me to ask (and I'm sure any of my coworkers would have known), he sat down with the book.

A little while later, he came up to the desk to return it - he also said he found a great recipe. So that's good - he might not have gotten what he expected, but he did get what he needed.




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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 8/5/12”

  1. Brandy Stillman Says:

    Timing Is Everything: The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking by Piccolo 978-0609802076 is one of my staple books at home. Some times I don’t want a recipe either, just a time. It also has times for how long to keep things in the fridge or freezer.

  2. Brandy Stillman Says:

    Sadly just realized that Timing is Everything is out of print. I guess the next best staple is always The Joy of Cooking.

  3. Jami Says:

    Or you could google it. I did that for meatloaf.

  4. Jessica Says:

    I love when my patrons ask me questions about cooking. On my first day at my new job a co-worker was trying to answer a question about making and canning apricot jam and it was a great feeling to be able to step in and put my expertise to use. However, when I get questions about sports I am completely stumped! So I know how you feel!

  5. Oleg K. Says:

    “Personal touches like this can make a good library experience a great community connection.”

    This is right on. I love when patrons ask me about subjects with which I can give that little bit of extra help. Equally important though is to be able to get interested in patron queries even if just during the interview. A little honest enthusiasm goes a long way.

  6. Jen Says:

    Ug – google is no help for times. I literally spent 30 minutes clicking on links to find out how long to cook sausage. Aside from “use a meat thermometer” (not helpful), the most common response was…

    “cook until done.”

    Infuriating! I’m mid-move, so all of my cookbooks are packed away. I finally found a site that gave a time (12 minutes for italian sausage, btw), and it was delicious.

    If someone ever comes to my library and asks, I’ll now have the answer :)