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



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Librarian-Related Gift Ideas

   December 12th, 2012 Brian Herzog

This time of year always brings out the "best gifts for" and "best of the year" type lists. Instead of adding my own lists to the pile, I wanted to highlight two slightly different takes on library-related gift ideas:

First, a great blog post by the Nocturnal Librarian - instead of trying to find the one right book for someone, she came up with a much better idea:

My idea of the perfect gift book is not going to be yours, and might work for your sister but not for your grandfather, your niece, or your teen. So I suggest the gift of professional reading advice.

Read the full post.

And secondly, Stephen Colbert has the best possible advice I wish everyone would gift to the librarian in their life:

Stephen Colbert's message

Via LISNews, that is the gift that can make any day Christmas Day.



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/25/12

   December 1st, 2012 Brian Herzog

This isn't a reference question, but it is something desk staff face on a daily basis.

The clip below comes from an episode of Family Guy from a few weeks ago - initially I cringed at negatively portraying public libraries, but then I realized just how amazingly accurate it was. The librarian could be nicer though:

I'm sure every library has its "regulars," but I was struck by how well the writers captured a typical interaction - how, no matter what, it's almost impossible for staff to extricate themselves. Now that is a skill I would love to learn.

I've asked if we could have some kind of button installed under the desk that would just make the phone ring, so we could use that as a reason to break off the aimless and never-ending conversations. No progress yet on a button, so I need to come up with other ideas.



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/11/12

   November 17th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Knitted diceI've said before that one of my favorite types of reference questions are those I can answer from personal experience. This time, unfortunately, I fell short of living up to my reputation.

A women I had worked with at another library emailed me this question:

...Have you got a pattern for a whistle cozy? ...I need one. And saw your dice pattern on ravelry...so... Got one?

She's referring to a pattern I created to knit a set of Yahtzee die for my brother. That actually wasn't far off from a whistle, but without getting myself a whistle and figuring it out, I had no idea how to modify the pattern to accommodate it.

So, I hoped I could find one online. But when I searched for "knit whistle cozy" (and variations), I kept getting patterns for cozys for penny whistles:

Super Simple whistle case pattern

That pattern is basically a thin sock (with no foot), so it shouldn't be too hard to make. However, when she said "whistle," I was thinking more of a referee whistle - and now I wasn't sure what she wanted.

So, before I emailed her back, I kept looking to see if I could find a referee whistle cozy. I searched through Ravelry, a lot of other websites, and checked the index of all the library's knitting books, but I couldn't find one.

Inhaler Sock to the Rescue!However, I did find something close (if you sort of squint your eyes and hold your tongue just right) - a pattern for an asthma inhaler sock.

That seemed shaped more or less like a whistle (and as the creator also noted, more or less like a small foot), so again the pattern is more or less a very small sock pattern. And the best part is that she came up with the pattern herself.

I wasn't sure if either of these patterns would help my friend though, so I put them both into an email, said I wasn't sure about the penny whistle/referee whistle thing, and sent it off.

Shortly thereafter, she wrote back to say it was indeed a referee whistle she was talking about. It turns out a friend of hers is a security guard, who could use something to keep the duty whistle warm and clean. Awesome.

The success of this answer really depends on my friends knitting skills, but hopefully one of these will work. If I were to try it, I think I might just go with the dice pattern and put a little spout on one end - but thankfully, I don't have to. Good luck, E.



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Tattooed Youth Librarians Of Massachusetts Calendar Now Available!

   November 14th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Tattooed Youth Librarians of MassachusettsFor anyone wanting to get a jump on their holiday shopping (or just needing one last stocking stuffer), here's an idea: the Tattooed Youth Librarians Of Massachusetts Calendar.

Now, I am neither tattooed nor a youth librarian, but the photo shoot for this calendar happened in my library. Neat.

The calendar is a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Library Association, and proceeds will benefit youth programming in MA libraries. Coordinated by Sharon Colvin (Chelmsford Library - my coworker), Noelle Boc (Tewksbury Library), Erin Daly (Chicopee Library), and Jessica LaMarre (Pembroke Library), the 18-month calendar features 16 individual tattooed librarians from across Massachusetts.

The calendars are available for $21 on the MLA website, and the project has been getting good press coverage [pdf], with more info on Facebook.

Another goal of the calendar is to dispel the stereotypical image of librarians. Check out their YouTube videos of the models talking about their tattoos and being librarians:

Meet Miss February & March 2013

Meet Miss May & June 2013

Meet Miss July & Mr. August 2013

Remember, the calendars are available for $21 on the MLA website - they might not last long!



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Reference Question of the Week – 10/21/12

   October 27th, 2012 Brian Herzog

You know serendipity can be a subtle but major influence on how people find things in libraries? Here's a situation where serendipity backfired.

A patron came up to the desk and asked if we had any books on how family members can cope with someone who has a drug and alcohol addiction. I brought her to a catalog workstation and did a simple book search for "alcohol addiction" - the second result was:

MVLC result for "I hope they serve beer in hell" by Max tucker

Oops.

The patron didn't comment on it, and I quickly pressed on to find useful resources for her. I have no idea what her situation was, but still, I felt like an ass. Oh well.



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Non-Traditional Circulating Collections in Libraries

   October 24th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Human Library ProjectHave you ever heard about something, liked the idea, and just accepted as fact that because you've heard about it, everyone else must have too, and then a couple years later happened to mention it in a room full of people like it's common knowledge only to have everyone look at you with blank stares? I get this a lot.

Most recently, it happened with the Human Library Project - you know, the idea in the news a couple years ago where libraries had collections of people you could check out - police officer, politician, Buddhist, lesbian, etc - and sit and talk with them to learn about their life experience.

I personally loved this idea, because it's a way to meet types of people you may never meet in your life's normal routine. Of course, I don't think the project every took itself to be grander than it was - I mean, you're only talking to one person, so of course you can't automatically generalize to everyone of that person's "type." The human books aren't stereotypes, so it's not like you're learning what life is like for all black men, but you do find out what life is like for this black man - which might be more than you knew before, and that's a good thing.

Anyway, like I said, I loved this idea when I first heard about it, and tucked it away. I happened to mention it during a meeting a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the room thought I was making it up. So I started asking around over the course of that week, and no one I talked to had heard of it. So, here you go, world - consider yourself officially informed. You are welcome.

I thought I'd also take this opportunity to mention a few other non-traditional things you can check out of libraries. Earlier this year, there was a PLA session on non-traditional collections, such as circulating ereaders, guitars, and running a seed library.

The iLibrarian blog is also a great resource for these types of ideas. Recent posts there include:

Seeing things like this makes me happy I work in libraries, but sad that I can't work in all the libraries. I mean, I've always thought it was cool that some libraries circulate cooking pans and artwork, and just last week we referred a patron to the Library of Congress' Talking Books program. But how much fun would it be to check out farmland or to offer a Maker Station?

Pretty fun, is my answer. I get excited by potential, which is why I never despair over the future of libraries - we've got potential coming out of our buns.

Librarian, her bun, and her book


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