Archives for Reference Question:
May 16th, 2015 Brian Herzog
This isn't a reference question I received (at least, not recently), but this Reddit thread was too good not to share here:
My mother, despite being in her mid 60's, is awesome with computers. She's a public librarian, and is often at the wrong end of users' questions. I came home for a quick Mother's Day visit and she told me this gem:
User: I can't copy this highlighted section! This mouse must be broken!
Mom: Just press the control and C keys at the same time. Yes, that'll copy it. Now hit the control and V keys at the same time.
User: V?? Why not P?
Mom: V stands for Velcro, so when you paste it, it'll stick.
User: Ooh ok! That makes sense!
TL;DR- My mom is amazing.
I never really questioned if the V stood for anything - I just thought it was chosen because it was next to C (and using P for Print makes more sense). However, one of the comments had a different explanation as to why V=paste:
That is a great answer - but still, it has the feeling of creating a sensible-sounding explanation for something after-the-fact, based on context. Like saying that [sic] is really an abbreviation for "spelling isn't correct." I mean, if the V key wasn't next to the C, would they still have used it?
Either way though, associating Ctrl+V with Velcro is a great way to have that stick in a patron's mind.
And someone please help me with this: is there a word for making up a definition for something after-the-fact? Like the [sic] thing? I feel like there should be, but I can't find it. Sort of like neologism I guess, so maybe "Deflogism."
May 9th, 2015 Brian Herzog
A patron came up to the Reference Desk with a book tucked under his arm. This was odd because usually when someone has a book question, they hold the book up, or out, so I can see what it is - but this time, the patron was definitely guarding it. After I greeted him, he said,
This may sound silly, but I'm serious - if I check this out, I'm not going to get put on some kind of watch list or anything am I?
And as he said it, he revealed to me the book under his arm: Mein Kampf.
I kind of laughed and said, "no; at least, not as far as I know."
I then explained how our catalog is managed by the MVLC network, and what data it tracks. The patron said he'd heard the urban legends of books being tracked - like in the movies Se7en and Conspiracy Theory (two movies I thoroughly enjoyed, so this is clearly my kind of patron).
Then the patron explained why he wanted it: he was working on a project about the holocaust, researching whether a case could be made that it actually started when that book was published, rather than later when the deaths and atrocities of the concentration camps began. I don't think I've really heard anyone talk about the holocaust in terms of prejudice and discrimination, but it certainly makes sense and it was interesting to listen to him.
And I think me listening to him kind of humanized the library a bit too, and comforted him enough to know that he could safely check that book out without fear of No Such Agency taking an interest in him.
But again - that is true only as far as I know. But what I do know, specifically because of things like this, is that it is important to support the EFF, or at least read the information they put out - such as What Every Librarian Needs to Know About HTTPS. Because even if we're not monitoring our patrons, we could still be inadvertently allowing it to happen.
May 2nd, 2015 Brian Herzog
An older gentleman came to the desk one afternoon and asked for a copy of the Constitution. Neat - I don't know that anyone has ever asked me for that.
Since he had a cane and came out of the elevator, I wasn't going to make him walk with me into the stacks, so I told him I'd be right back. I went to the 340s, figuring we'd have something there with the text of the Constitution in it - and that it would stand out on the shelf because I couldn't exactly remember the call number.
Sure enough, we had a Teen book (yay for interfiling adult and teen!) with the text as an appendix.
I took it back to the patron and showed him the text, and he didn't look at all pleased. I asked him if the text of the Constitution was what he was looking for, in case I had misunderstood him initially, but he said yes it was. Hmm.
It then occurred to me that when he asked if we had a copy of the Constitution, he may have thought we have an actual copy of it - either one of the big souvenir rolls like the Declaration of Independence from the movie National Treasure, or an actual original copy.
I didn't ask him this though, and after a second I think he realized that I was handing him a readable text of the Constitution, and he became okay with that. He thanked me and left, but I honestly can't help thinking this YA book was a pale imitation of what he might have expected.
After all, the Dallas Library has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, so why shouldn't we have the Constitution? Well, the people who know me will point to the food stains on my pants as to why I can't have nice things.
April 25th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Working at a Reference Desk isn't all about funny misunderstandings. Sometimes it's very serious, as this week's question shows. However, two things about this question:
- It actually happened last week morning of April 15th
- Wednesdays are my late shift, so I only heard about how my coworkers handled this when I came in at 1pm - but they did everything right and I thought it was worth sharing
Apparently, an older female patron came up to the desk and asked for help scanning and emailing something. One of the desk staff showed her how to get started scanning, and went back to the desk. A few minutes later, the patron came back over and asked for help emailing. After a short conversation, when the patron found out the scanner can't email things itself but instead she needs to send it from her own email account - which she didn't have - she put her head down on the table and said,
You just don't understand, you don't understand how serious this is, I'm going to be arrested!
Everyone knows library staff are not supposed to ask why when helping patrons, but they rightly did in this case.
It had been all over news outlets this tax season how there was a new kind of scam: you'd get a phone call and the person would say they were the IRS and you needed to send them money or else you'd be arrested. That was exactly what was happening with this patron - she had just deposited her money in an account in the bank across the street (which was not her bank), and had come to the library to scan and email the deposit slip to "the IRS" so they could withdraw it.
Thank goodness our staff caught on. The patron had a hard time believing she was being scammed, but staff insisted. They brought her into the office so she could sit down relax, and staff called the Police. When the officer arrived, he listened to the situation, and then left with the patron to go over to the bank.
As far as I know, we never heard back about what happened, but it sounds like the situation was derailed in time - at least, I sincerely hope so. And, there are two other comments about this interaction:
- My coworker who was helping the woman said the patron's cell phone kept ringing the entire time, and it was the scammer! I guess he knew he was close to getting his money, so he kept calling to find out why she hadn't sent the email yet. Finally my coworker took the woman's phone and told the scammer that they knew what was going on and exactly what she thought of him. I'm sorry I missed that.
- Since this was all happening in the public area, and the woman was clearly in distress, of course it caught the attention of all the other patrons in the area. As it unfolded and everyone realized she was being taken by a scammer, other patrons sitting at the computers nearby starting chiming in with their own comments - ranging from advice to criticism on her being dangerously gullible. Now that is almost as pathetic as scamming the elderly out of money.
Anyway, the whole situation seemed to be handled perfectly by the staff, so way to go to them.
April 18th, 2015 Brian Herzog
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.
April 11th, 2015 Brian Herzog
Alright, this question can be filed under, how maybe not to run a scavenger hunt.
Last Saturday I came in to work for a few hours in the morning to cover for someone*. Before we opened to the public I was updating some of the computers, and was still sitting at a public workstation when, a few minutes after opening, two of my coworkers walked up on either side of me. They asked,
Brian where are the tickets? Everyone's asking for the tickets. Where are they?
[minding my own business]
Brian the Police hid tickets in the library. We don't know where they are - do you?
I had no idea what they were talking about - and to be fair, they didn't really either, because all of this was news to us.
Apparently when they unlocked the front doors at 9:30 that morning, a couple parent/kid combinations all rushed in and started looking for hidden Red Sox tickets - and of course, asking the staff where they were hidden. This was the first any of the Saturday staff was hearing about it, so they came to ask me to see if I was in on the secret. I was not.
It turned out the Chelmsford Police Athletic League has been picking a public building in town, hiding tickets to a Red Sox games somewhere in the building, and then posting on their Facebook page hints to let residents find them. They didn't let the library know beforehand though, so this was all news to us - which I don't think any patrons believed when they asked everyone on staff where the tickets were. And, my coworkers didn't believe me either.
On the one hand, what a nice thing for the CPAL to do for people. And, great that they thought to include the library - especially given the hints (more on that in a minute). But on the other hand, it really sucks to have kids crawling under tables while other patrons are working at them, and having frantic parents who promised their kids free Red Sox tickets becoming increasing intense as time goes on that They Must Find The Tickets. Basically, being in a library and not doing library stuff is really distracting to all the patrons who are there doing library stuff.
But anyway, here's the details on how everything went down. The day before, CPAL posted this photo on their Facebook page as a hint to where the tickets where hidden this time:
Now that's a tough hint - I mean I recognize our carpet and public workstation leg, but how many patrons would? A few at least, as it turned out.
And as the people came in looking for them, this was the only clue that we had too. So it meant they were in the library, but where? Taped to the bottom of one of the public workstation tables (which is what this leg is)? That means crawling under every single computer table, and then every other table, to find out. No? Well then, where else could they be?
In case you haven't noticed, there are millions of places in a library to hid two tickets. After an hour of frantic searching, the tickets still hadn't been found - and still no one believed me that I didn't know where they were.
Then another photo was posted:
Which brought all the searchers downstairs to the non-fiction section. But still no success, and shortly thereafter a third photo hint appeared on Facebook:
By this time staff were all checking the Facebook page too, to learn anything we could about where these tickets might be. After refreshing the page and seeing this third photo, I looked up from the computer to see one mother who had been searching all morning making a beeline back to the 700s (which are back past the Biography sign).
A few minutes later she came out of the stacks with a tremendous relived smile on her face. She had found them! Tucked inside the displayed book. As word spread that they were discovered, and where, word spread back that apparently multiple people had already thought of this logical spot and checked this very book - but somehow had missed the tickets.
And then, as quickly as the ticket search had begun it ended, and the library immediately quieted back down to a normal Saturday morning.
So to recap: a treasure hunt in the library is a great idea for a program, and, clearly, if you have a nice enough prize, people will be highly motivated to participate. However, the better the prize, the more annoyed all the other patrons will be at the disruptive treasure hunters. And, if you're not affiliated with the library, please give them a heads-up beforehand so staff will at least know what is going on. But it really is a nice thing the CPAL is doing - maybe I just annoy easily.
And I swear, I really didn't have any idea this was happening, and didn't know where the tickets were. My coworkers still don't believe me.
*So in other words, I'm not even supposed to be here today