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



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This One Weird Trick Will Increase Library Program Attendance!

   March 17th, 2017 Brian Herzog

One of the things I truly hate, hate, is clickbait. I find myself specifically not clicking on things that sound clickbaity, just because I feel insulted by something thinking I can be manipulated. (That'll teach 'em.)

Especially though when it is totally unnecessary. A recent Lifehacker article entitled "This Secret Trick Will Save You From Getting Lost In Central Park Forever" could have just as easily, and less annoyingly, been titled, "How To Use Central Park Lampposts To Avoid Getting Lost." I still would have clicked and read, and would have felt less dirty about it.

Of course these show up as links all over the internet, but I've also seen a trend on YouTube to name videos with clickbait titles too. One of the channels I used to watch, Wranglestar, has become terrible for this, and I've all but stopped watching him because of it. Recently though, he published a video explaining why he uses clickbait video titles. It was interesting, and the tl;dw version is that he found it to be the only way to make money on YouTube anymore: regular titles don't get clicked, which means videos don't get watched, which means no monetized ad revenues for him.

If it is that effective, maybe library ought to pay attention. So, just as a "funny thing to think about but I would never do for real" project, here are a few of our library programs re-titled as clickbait:

Now those would totally boost our attendance numbers.



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Reference Question of the Week – 3/5/17

   March 11th, 2017 Brian Herzog

wire hangerI'm at work on a Saturday covering our "Info Desk," which is kind of like a mini-Reference Desk right inside the front door.

During my lunch today, one of my coworkers from the real Reference Desk relayed an interesting interaction she had this morning:

A guy came up and said he was locked out of his car. I asked if he wanted to call AAA or something, but he just asked if we had a wire coat hanger.

I said I thought that didn't work on new cars, but he said he thought he knew a trick and wanted to try it.

So I went into the lunch room and found the one wire hanger we had on the rack*, and I gave it to him. And it must have worked, because I saw him a little later and he just gave me the thumbs-up.

Ha, that made me laugh. I think I'd be a little uncomfortable giving a patron a hanger, but I'm sure I've given out worse. My three favorite things about this are:

  1. he thought to ask the library for something (even something unusual)
  2. we were able to give it to him (even though it was unusual)
  3. and his life was better off for it (or so the thumbs-up seems to imply)

And even better, now this patron has a great "guess what happened to me today at the library!" story to tell people. Nice.

 


*By the way, she had just dumped everything that was hung on this hanger onto the nearest chair. Me asking her, "why is all this crap on my chair?" is what prompted her telling me this story in the first place.



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The World Still Is A Good Place

   February 1st, 2017 Brian Herzog

Last week, someone called the library asking if they could return a book by mail. Of course, we said, that's no problem.

This week, a package arrived with this inside:

How awesome is that? I have no idea if American Airlines, or airlines in general, make this a general practice, or if this Flight Attendant just did it because he felt it was the right thing to do. But it is great, and we appreciate it, and I'm sure the patron* does too.

In any case, I sincerely hope American Airlines reimburses their above-and-beyond Flight Attendant for postage. Thank you very much Tom!

 


*By the way, we looked up who had it checked out and called to let them know their (lost) book was returned, but the phone went right to voicemail. Probably that means they're still on vacation - but now without Rodney Dangerfield to keep them company.



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Readalikes for Old Bags.

   June 2nd, 2016 Brian Herzog

Recently one of our patrons submitted a purchase suggestion for a book she saw reviewed in the Boston Globe: Old Bags Taking a Stand, by Faith Baum and Lori Petchers

The patron had also clipped and stapled a little part of the Globe's review, which made it sound interesting enough to investigate further. In cases like this, my first stop is Amazon to see if anyone else has reviewed it.

Now, one of the little games I play when searching - for anything - is to try to type in as few keywords as possible to get the result I want. Known item searches are of course the easiest, and in this case, I just typed "old bags taking" into Amazon's book search - and laughed out loud at the result:

oldbags

Yes, the correct book was listed first, but the second result was what struck me. Little Women? Really, that's the exact opposite of "old bag" in this sense. Amazon, what in your search algorithm matched these two books?

I've showed a couple coworkers this and their search results varied slightly, but Little Women was always on the list. It seems weird, but maybe this is one of those reader preferences computers can identify that people wouldn't - maybe Little Women fans really are the target audience for Old Bags. Hmm.



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Assistant Director Update, April Fools Style

   April 1st, 2016 Brian Herzog

This blog has been without a new post for longer that I intended, and hopefully no one minded too much. Switching from Head of Reference to Assistant Director has been both more different and more busy than I expected, but things are starting to calm down finally.

So hopefully, that will mean more regular updates from the back office. Especially since I'll be at PLA next week, I'm sure there will be lots to talk about.

But something I always liked doing (probably more than you liked me doing it) was a traditional April 1st post. I wasn't able to get something together for this year, so hopefully you don't mind settling for this:

library bulletin boards

That's a photo of my library's lobby. And it's hard to make out, so here's the slide showing on the digital display:

Special Storytime lide

So far, no one has noticed - or at least, no one has said anything. We'll see.

By the way, the featured title is The Berenstain Bears and the blame game, but there were other options too.



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Reference Question of the Week – 2/14/16

   February 20th, 2016 Brian Herzog

water pumpSometimes, what would have otherwise been an ordinary, simple question, gets asked with a slight twist and I just know it's going to be the question of the week.

Last Saturday, a college-age male patron walked up to the desk carrying an empty water bottle and asked,

Where is your Brita filtered filler station?

A coworker was with me at the desk at the time, and both of us kind of paused - long enough, apparently, that the patron then said,

Well, maybe you don't have one...

We get asked regularly where the bathrooms are, and only slightly less frequently if we have a drinking fountain*. We explained to him where the drinking fountain was, and he seemed happy enough for it.

I wonder if he actually expected a Brita-filtered tap, or free-standing water cooler. Maybe that's what they exclusively use in his house or college, to the point that he's just so used to saying "Brita filter" that it's the name he uses for any water dispensing device.

Regardless, it suddenly made me feel like a 19th-century library and the best we had to offer was an old farm water pump out back. I mean, I' very happy we still offer a typewriter to patrons, but I never thought our drinking fountain would become retro too.

 


*In New England, at least this part, they call drinking fountains "bubblers," which I think is funny. They also call pop "tonic."



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