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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/24/13

   March 2nd, 2013

Library Emergency PhoneThis sort of happened once before, and I think it's awesome - although it probably wasn't very awesome to experience.

One member of our staff recently took a two-week cruise, leaving from Florida. She and her partner flew to Florida, took a shuttle from the airport to the dock, and were just about to get on the boat when the realized one of their suitcases was missing. But worst of all, it was the suitcase that contained his blood pressure medicine.

They simply could not go on the cruise without it. And they only had an hour and a half before they had to check in on the ship, so they didn't have enough time to get all the way back to the airport and try to track down the bag.

So, she did the only smart thing - she called the library.

Her logic was this: they knew the name of his doctor and the town in which he practiced, but no other contact information. The Reference Desk was able to easily find the doctor's office phone number, which she then called from her cell phone in Florida.

The doctor's office said they could send a new prescription to a local pharmacy down there - but of course they were at a cruise ship terminal and had no idea where a drug store might be.

The ensuing story sounded like the stuff of a Benny Hill sketch: they found a taxi, but the driver barely spoke English. He tried to locate a CVS Pharmacy on his smartphone's GPS, while my coworker tried to keep the doctor's office on the phone. I can just hear Yakety Sax playing while picturing this cab racing down the street, cell phones blazing, communication barrier humming, and the clock ticking.

They finally find a pharmacy, (hopefully) convince the cabbie to wait in the parking lot because they'll be right back out and need to race back to the dock - my coworker still has the doctor's office on the phone and gives it to the pharmacy technician so they can work out where to send the prescription.

After a few tense minutes the new prescription is filled, the smiling taxi driver is happily waiting for them, and they make it back to the cruise ship just in the nick of time. The rest of the cruise goes smoothly, they have a wonderful time, and they even manage to pick up their lost suitcase on their way back through the airport going home.

And the moral of this story? Never go on vacation without taking your local library's phone number with you.

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/24/13”

  1. MissMacgyver Says:

    This summer, I was lost on the way to a wedding for a library coworker–being Friday evening, public libraries were closed, as I well knew, having just closed mine. I still had my alma mater’s library phone number in my phone from six years prior, and knew that academic libraries are *always* open. Called their reference desk, asked the librarian to Mapquest my location and destination and was on my way! Hooray for reference desks!

  2. Andy Says:

    Other moral, keep your medication in your carry-on.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @MissMacgyver: that’s even better – we do offer 24 hour chat reference, but unfortunately not 24 hour phone support.

    @Andy: actually, it turned out it was – it was the shuttle bus company who left the bag at the airport. But yeah, I take your point – if it’s important, carry it yourself.

    And in other carry-on news, did everyone hear the TSA is allowing knives on planes again? That means I can finally take my Swiss Army Knife with me when I travel again – it’s been 12 years!