March 8th, 2014 Brian Herzog
I think this takes the cake for "most ridiculous-sounding reference question that actually ended up having a legitimate answer."
I feel slightly bad making fun of a reference question, but I didn't know what to think when a patron walked up and asked me,
Can you find me the phone number for the Disney World Historical Society?
The rest of story, she continued, was that she had gone there 20 years ago with her grandson. One of the places they stopped was in the historical society in the park, who would research your genealogy and print and frame your family crest. She had done this, but then gave it to a family member who subsequently moved to the Gulf Coast and then their home destroyed in a hurricane and lost everything. So now the patron wanted to contact Disney World Historical Society to get another copy of the family crest.
She knew it had been at the Epcot Center, so I started looking. When using keywords like "disney world" and "historical society," I found http://www.thehistorycenter.org and lots of other Orlando-area historical societies (and of course lots of sites on the history of Disney), but nothing like what she had described. Since I wasn't making any progress, she asked I just give her the main Disney phone number so she could call and ask them. I did, and she went back to her computer.
I kept working on it though, trying different combinations of search terms (disney historical society, orlando history), and finally got lucky with "epcot genealogy" - but only kind of.
I found a page which gave me the name "Heritage House" and described it as:
Across Liberty Square from Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, just to the right of Hall of Presidents (when looking at it) a shingle swings above the entryway to the Heritage House, Historical Research Center. How much of a "research center" it is, is up for debate, as most of its space these days is taken up with Jack Skellington gear rather than the American history souvenirs that it used to carry. However, tucked away in a back corner you will still find a desk dedicated to looking up your "family crest."
The family crest part is exactly what the patron described, so that was great. But now the bad news: the page also said the Heritage House had closed on January 4, 2014. Missed it by weeks!
I kept searching for Magic Kingdom Heritage House, and eventually found more pages describing it, and also verifying it had closed. The I found a Disney news page that linked to a blog post with the promising title, Heritage House Reopens as MyMagic+ Service Center.
Some research into the MyMagic+ program makes it look like it's some kind of park experience package, of which the Heritage House services are just a small part.
The patron was still in the library, and seemed happy I found more. Although she had already moved on to a different project by this point, and so just said thank you and when back to her work.
I guess she wasn't as impressed with the search as I was, because she knew from the very beginning that this place existed. I don't mind saying I found this trail of breadcrumbs pretty remarkable, because I had little hope of finding anything at all based on the initial question.
March 1st, 2014 Brian Herzog
Have you noticed that Bitcoin has been in the news a lot lately? I think that's where this question came from.
A patron walked over to me at the Reference Desk, from the general direction of our print station, and asked,
Can I pay for my printouts with Bitcoin?
I think he was just being funny, but he did it completely deadpan so I wasn't sure. In any case, I told him we do not accept Bitcoin. He then responded with,
Okay, I'll pay with my credit card.
To which again I had to say no, the pay-for-print machine is cash-only. He may have been actually disappointed about the credit card, because he had to go across the street to the bank machine to get some cash. Luckily we have a bank machine so close by, but I still feel bad every time I make someone do this.
Incidentally, we don't accept Paypal either.
February 22nd, 2014 Brian Herzog
This week's Reference Question was actually sent to me by another librarian, Brenda Guernsey, just after the Reference Question Contest last year. I wanted to share it because it's such a great "right place at the right time" story.
I mean, hopefully any librarian could have helped them with the basics, but it's always a proud feeling to get to share some value-added personal experience too - and this is the most extreme example of that I've ever heard of.
A father and daughter were at the catalog computer, searching and seemed to be struggling to find what they wanted. I went up to them and asked if they were finding what they needed. They asked how to limit a search, that they needed only nonfiction books on a topic and were only getting fiction results.
I asked about their topic: the daughter had read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society book for a school assignment and now needed to give a speech about the Isle of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. And they couldn't find anything in our catalog about that.
Well, if you took note of my last name, it was one of those "in the right place at the right moment" times. I helped them find what I could in our small branch (one of the smaller in our system), pointed them to some valuable online resources that I knew about, told them about Guernsey cows, Victor Hugo's stay on the island, and a few other details.
My father-in-law had visited the island in the 70s, having traced the family history back to the island, and had recently given us all of his information (brochures, maps, two books of history about the island, and other miscellaneous items). Since the student's project was not due until Thursday (yay for a student working ahead and NOT the night before!!), I told them that I would bring all the materials in on Monday, and they could peruse them if they needed to.
So the "after school" crowd included them yesterday (the mother and daughter, and later the father) and they sat in the library with those materials, all studying and taking notes. I wish I could be there when the girl gives her speech!
The only thing about the interchange that made me sad is that my father-in-law recently passed away, and I wished I could have called him and told him how those materials helped someone outside our little family circle.
Awesome. I'm still waiting to encounter the patron looking for information on the Isle of Herzog.
February 15th, 2014 Brian Herzog
I would say right off the bat that this post is NSFW, but it happened to me at work so it must be okay. Just, be warned(ish).
One slow afternoon, after school, a girl who was probably about fourteen came up to the desk and asked for books on learning to draw. Specifically, she said, she wanted to draw people.
No problem - in fact, the 740s are right near the Reference Desk. I walked her over, skimmed the titles, and pulled one down called Step-by-step guide to drawing the figure. Sounds promising, right? The cover shows artistic-looking sketches, no problem there, and just what we're looking for.
No, the problem came when I flipped open the book to see if the inside was what she was looking for. Hover your mouse over the image below to see the first page I flipped to*.
The patron didn't seem phased, but it's not often I show naked pictures to fourteen year old girls. Not just an image, mind you, but an actual photograph of a naked woman. I know this is perfectly normal in the life of a librarian, but, I don't know, it just took me by surprise and felt weird.
But it did turn out to be what she wanted, so the patron took that book and another one we found, and she seemed happy.
*I have two theories on why I was able to flip right to this page:
- Either I have an uncanny ability to find naked women, or (and more likely),
- This is the most popular page in the book and the spine has been broken by previous readers (perhaps fourteen year old boys)
Tags: art, awkward, drawing, figure, human, libraries, Library, naked, people, public, Reference Question, woman
February 8th, 2014 Brian Herzog
Late one morning, a male patron in his twenties comes up to the desk with what looks like a college course syllabus. He points to one of the assignments, which is listed as a 400-1000 word essay, and asks me if the computer can count the words for him.
Okay, that's easy. I walk back over to his computer with him, have him open Word, and show him the counter in the bottom-left corner.
The patron thanks me, and says that he's nervous because the essay is due that night.
After walking back to the Reference Desk, I glance over at him as I sit down, and his computer screen is visible to me. In just the time it took me to walk across the room, he'd already opened YouTube and was watching some clearly-non-homework-related video.
Study breaks are part of the learning process (it was Minesweeper that got me through library school), but it's funny to take them right at the beginning.
February 2nd, 2014 Brian Herzog
Working with the public every day allows lots of opportunity for just weird interactions.
Our federal instruction booklets finally arrived, and I was wheeling boxes of them upstairs to put out for the public. Both the 1040 A and 1040 EZ instructions were delivered on the same day, so I had quite a few trips up the elevator with boxes stacked on a two-wheel dolly.
On one of the trips, when the elevator door opened upstairs to let me off, there was a woman standing smack in front of the elevator, waiting to get on. Obviously I had to get off first to make room for her, so she had to step back to let me pass. I didn't think twice about it or look back, but I presume she then got on the elevator.
I didn't have far to go to drop the boxes off, and since I had to go back downstairs for more, I was back at the elevator in just a minute or two. When I pressed the button to call the elevator, the door open immediately, and that same woman stepped out.
She looked around, looked at me with the dolly, and said,
Don't bother, this elevator doesn't work.
I really couldn't tell if she didn't remember that I had just gotten off of a successful elevator ride not two minutes ago.
I said something like, "Oh really? That's strange." and proceeded to get in anyway. She followed me in, and said,
Yeah, I wanted to go down, but when I press the "door close" button, nothing happens.
And of course, she pressed the door close button - and the door closed. So, trying to be both helpful and tactful, I said,
Oh - in this elevator, you need to press the "downstairs" button to go down.
I did, and the elevator descended. We rode down in absolute silence. When the door opened, she walked off, I went to get more tax form boxes, and I never saw her again.