This was actually a reference question I asked myself, but it's sort of summery so maybe relevant to other people - and, hopefully, helpful.
I was outside playing one day a few weeks ago and ended up with pine sap on my favorite pair of shorts. That's the worst because I don't like going shopping, and I thought that sap meant pretty much the end of clothes.
I was sad, so I put them aside in the hopes that the sap would just evaporate naturally. I came across them last week, and was able to determine that sap doesn't naturally evaporate out of shorts.
Since no laundry experts were around to ask, it occurred to me search online for "remove sap from clothes" to see if the internet had any ideas. I figured they did, but also figured it involved vinegar - which seems like the magical cure for almost anything, but is too bad because I can't stand the smell of vinegar.
So, with the optimism appropriate to any new trip on the internet, I started clicking links.
There was no shortage of tips and old school remedies, as you might suspect. The consensus seemed to be rubbing (or soaking) the spot of sap in anything from laundry detergent to cooking oil to WD-40 (surprisingly, vinegar was not mentioned).
Most of the options were either things I didn't have, like nail polish, or didn't actually trust, like peanut butter. But one that kept coming up - hand sanitizer - sounded interesting.
I don't have any at home (because, you know, super-bacteria), but it seems to be everywhere else so it was worth a try. I was especially swayed by this guy's video:
My shorts are cotton, but if it works so magically on his, why not mine, right?
And holy cow, it worked! Mine took three applications - my guess is because it was a big blob that had soaked through the cotton (and I had already washed and dried them) - but it worked. In just a couple minutes, it was as if the sap was never there. I don't know where it went, but it went away.
Besides the magic, it must be the alcohol in the hand sanitizer breaking down the sap, but I couldn't be happier to be able to wear my favorite shorts again stain-free.
My pre-library background is in marketing, so branding and logos and things are never far from my mind. Over the July 4th weekend, I took the opportunity to throw together some library versions of famous logos (that is, I was too lazy to get off the couch one day so this was a way to entertain myself).
Everyone knows the traditional library symbol...
Here's one to get us attention during the comic book movies trend...
And one to appeal to athletes...
The straight-backed posture above seemed too static, so here's the same thing with some forward energy (or the reader just to a good part in Fifty Shades of Grey...
And of course one for coffee drinkers...
And again for coffee drinkers who like a creepy face...
I still like my "I Library" idea too, but it never really took off. Of course, my favorite cross-branding is the one in my site's header image, but that Superman one turned out pretty well too.
Here's a real turkey of an Easter Egg right before Independence Day:
I was searching the Microsoft clipart gallery in Powerpoint because I needed a picture of a Teddy Bear for an event listing on our calendar. And skimming the results, the third one down on the left looked like it might be a good candidate...
So now click on the image above to share in my surprise at that particular clipart bear's scary costume. Is this an April Fool's joke?
I don't know where Microsoft's online clipart gallery is pulling from, but they are far more prepared with clipart for all types of occasions and holidays than I would have expected.
I know I tend to be overly-paranoid, but sometimes reference questions are so unusual that I think they just have to be some "secret shopper" type test to see if I'll take them seriously. One such question came in via email last week:
Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 5:11 PM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Chelmsford Library Reference Question
Comments: Do you have reference/source documents on trade of goods/ideas from Asia to Europe during the 18th Century? I am a French & Indian War re-enactor, and I am looking to doing some research on whether certain items, bamboo training sword and stuff like that, as well as knowledge of martial arts would have been traded during this time period.
Thank you for your assistance.
What the heck? It sounds both plausible and ridiculous at the same time. However, since that's the kind of criteria that interests me, I looked around to see what could be found.
My coworkers had already pulled the few books we had on the French and Indian War, but they weren't much help. And we didn't have any resources on Europe-Asia trade in the 18th Century, so I continued looking online. The best I could find were references to European colonization of Asia, but not much specifically about the trade of bamboo swords or martial arts training.
So, I replied to the patron with what I could find:
Since we didn't have any luck with library resources, I tried to find other organizations with more expertise in the French and Indian War. Here are a few groups that might have the information you're looking for:
I did find a reference stating that the French and Indian War was the name of just the North American theater of the Seven Years War, which took place in other parts of the world simultaneously, including Asia. It looks like France, England, and Spain had various battles in Asia, mostly in India and the Philippines. Although fighting happened at the same time as the French and Indian War in North America, I wasn't able to find any cross-over between the two areas.
I'm sorry we can't provide more direct help, but we will keep looking at let you know if we find anything with the connection you're looking for. Thanks.
Head of Reference
Chelmsford Public Library
Very shortly the patron replied:
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 7:38 PM
To: Chelmsford Library Reference
Subject: Re: Chelmsford Library Reference Question
I thank you very much for your assistance, and I must especially thank you for going several steps beyond what I expected, it is greatly appreciated!
I always feel a little guilty when a patron thanks me even though I don't feel I helped very much, but perhaps one of the museums will provide the information he's seeking. And I've been mostly out of the library since this question came in, but now that I'm back I can continue looking - I still have the patron's email address, and who knows what further research might find.
Still, though - I will admit to looking this patron up in the catalog to make sure he was real before I started working on the question.
So, Monday was a odd day. All three of these (slightly odd) reference interactions happened in the space of a few hours:
1. A patron, who had been sitting at a table near the Reference Desk for a couple hours, walked up and asked,
Could I have a minute of your time?
Which I immediately thought was suspicious - it felt like he was going to try to sell me something. Then he starts this three minute ramble that his dog just died, and he just buried him, it was a Pomeranian, he was sad, he'll miss him, and it was cremated and he buried the urn.
All the while I was listening and starting to feel sad for the guy, but on the other hand was still skeptical and expecting him to ask me for money or something. Or at least get to the end and ask me a reference question.
When he finally did pause, I said something like, "I'm very sorry, that is terrible" - and then he just said "thanks for listening" and went back to his table!
Now I felt terrible - he was upset and just needed to talk to somebody, and here I was expecting a scam. I don't think he noticed though, because later when he left he smiled and said goodbye.
2. A little while after that, one of the volunteers who leads an English Conversation Circle came to the desk and said she wanted to ask me about proof of residency. She said many of her attendees have only recently come to this country and are living with their kids (who are adults). They don't have driver's licenses or any ID with their local address, and she wanted to know what they could use for proof of residency.
My initial thought was that it all depends on who they are trying to prove it to - the library, for example, will accept pretty much any mail (but preferably a bill) with their name and address on it. But she specifically said they weren't applying for library cards - she just wanted to talk about the concept of "proof of residency" in the next conversation.
I know Massachusetts issues non-driver's license ID cards, through the RMV, so I checked their website. Their requirements to get that ID don't seem to include any kind of proof of residency, and people with certain kinds of Visas are allowed to get one too.
I've never really thought about it before, and although it does seem kind of odd that you'd just walk in and tell them where you live, I guess you have to start somewhere. This might just be me being security-paranoid again.
3. And then, almost at the very end of my shift, a patron who had been in one of our study rooms for a couple hours comes up to the desk. He's got his bag, some books, a small box, and a lot of loose papers.
He asks to use the stapler and tape, which is no problem.
Then he asks if he can hang a flyer on our bulletin board, which he hands to me. It's for a fundraising road race for a non-profit, so I tell him that is also no problem.
Then, THEN, he asks me if I can hang it up right then, and if he can video record me while I hang it, because he's producing a promotional video for their Facebook page.
Well, that feels a little weird, but not so weird that I say no. So we go upstairs to the community bulletin boards right by the front entrance. It's kind of a big sign, so I need to make some room for it as he's getting his phone ready. I ask him for any last minute directorial suggestions, to which he said, "um, just pin it to the board is fine."
So I do, and we pull it off in one take. What professionalism!
I may have hesitated more for another group, but this fundraiser benefits a charity in the name of a local kid who was injured in the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, so it certainly is a good cause. I haven't seen the video posted yet, so keep checking.
These may not have been real reference questions, but the Reference Desk certainly is not a boring place.
This week's question is really only funny because of an amazing coincidence, and for the ensuing internal embarrassment.
On Thursday this week, a young woman with an Eastern European accent came up to the desk and said she had something she needed to print. She could see it in the email on her phone, but not when she logged into her Yahoo account online - so what could she do?
Our Print from Anywhere service allows people to submit print jobs by email, so I explained how to do that. It's kind of a long email address to type, and when I pulled out our brochure which has the email on it, she said thanks and took it over to a nearby table to actually send the message.
A few minutes later she came up and said the email was sent. I logged into the web print queue and scanned the list to find an email job (by far most of the jobs come through the web interface, so the emailed ones stand out). I saw one, saw it hadn't been printed yet, and released it.
As I picked it up off the printer, I glanced at the front to make sure it printed okay, with no smudges or anything. There weren't, but what I did notice (which is more than I should, I know), was that it was an email from someone named Olga saying she was from Russia and found me attractive. In fact, this is what it was*.
What? I blushed and just handed it to the patron. I thought, well, maybe she doesn't speak English well, and was more comfortable taking time to type all of this out instead of saying it to me. I thought maybe if I just handed it to her we'd avoid that awkward yet common patron-hitting-on-librarian situation. We've all been there, right?
So she took it from me, and then immediately said,
My name's not Olga. This isn't mine.
I took the print back from her, and went back to the print queue. I refreshed it, but no other email print job was listed. Hmm.
We looked at her phone, and sure enough, she hadn't actually sent her message yet. So she did, it showed up, I released it, and she was happy.
Two more comments about this:
I know this is a common type of spam, but sending it to a library's print queue and letting it lie in wait for a single male librarian to accidentally print it is impressively strategic thinking.
I don't think the patron picked up on any of this, because she just wanted her print job. I, on the other hand, immediately started looking forward to sharing my ridiculous ego with you.
*I blacked out our web print email address, just in the hopes of cutting down on any future spam sent to it.