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

Reference Question of the Week ¦ 3/2/14

   March 8th, 2014 Brian Herzog

disney family crestI 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.

Welcome! to the Library

   March 5th, 2014 Brian Herzog

It's been awhile since I've found any interesting scrap paper art left behind by a doodling patron, so I was happy to come across this one recently:

welcome to the library scrap paper

Book worms are indeed cool.

Reference Question of the Week ¦ 2/23/14

   March 1st, 2014 Brian Herzog

coinbox0Have 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.

How About This For A Library Marketing Campaign?

   February 26th, 2014 Brian Herzog

I was a marketing major in college, so things like branding and public presentation are always important to me (although I certainly don't consider myself an expert). That said, I've never really been a huge fan of the ALA's "@ your library" campaign - you know the one:

ALA @ Your Library

I'm not entirely sure why - however much I like the sentiment, I've never been able to really embrace this slogan.

It's important to me to brand and promote libraries though - especially in a universal way - and I finally came up with an alternative to @ your library. I don't think anyone's done this approach before, and what I was going for was both a catchy way to promote the library in general, as well as a way to inform people of library services they might not know the library offers.

So, without further ado, here's my suggestion for an "I Library" campaign:

I Library Storytime
I Library Ebooks
I Library Homework
I Library Movies
I Library Lectures
I Library Chelmsford

And of course, no online campaign is complete without an animated gif:

I Library [animated]

I'm obviously not a graphic designer, but I like this idea. The services I used are just a small sampling of what libraries offer - the possibilities are endless. So too are the choices of fonts, colors, and improvements over my layout. But I thought it was nice and simple and clear. And customizable, because patrons could choose the services they use.

Hopefully it's interesting enough that patrons would want to put bumper stickers on their car, wear it on a t-shirt, carry a tote bag version, or whatever. And, maybe it's even informative enough to show non-patrons that the library does indeed have something for them.

Reference Question of the Week ¦ 2/16/14

   February 22nd, 2014 Brian Herzog

guernseyThis 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.

Comic Book Explains The Transpacific Partnership

   February 19th, 2014 Brian Herzog

After shoveling until 11pm last night, today's post was going to be about the relentless tyranny of snow - but happily, here's something more interesting.

Yesterday, BoingBoing pointed to a new comic book called The Transpacific Partnership and "Free Trade," that explains, in understandable comic book fashion, the secretly-being-negotiated-behind-closed-doors Transpacific Partnership trade treaty. If you've been picking up on the snippets of news about the TPP that have been leaked in the past months, you may have a general feeling that the TPP is A Bad Thing. Not unlike the relentless tyranny of snow.

Bad, but how? Well, this comic does an excellent job of explaining - not only why it's bad, but how. And how bad. Here's one example, about Intellectual property:

TPP comic

The 27-page comic is by Michael Goodwin and illustrated by Dan E. Burr, and really is excellent. Even for someone with no economics knowledge, it helps breakdown how international trade works, what "free trade" is and is not, and how the TPP would fit in. It also examines the current political environment in which things like this can exist.

Even if you don't read the whole thing, at least read up to the part where corporations can dictate laws in other countries by suing those governments that have laws the corporations don't like.

Spoiler alert: this already happens under NAFTA. Also under NAFTA, it snows. A lot.