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

Reference Question of the Week – 12/4/11

   December 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Exipred milkThis question was a two-parter, and it was the second part that made it interesting.

Last Saturday, a mother and her middle-school daughter came to the desk and asked for information on food expiration dates, which the mother explained was for a group project. We didn't have anything recent in print, but I showed them how to access our databases, and using various keyword combinations we found three or four articles that looked really good.

I emailed each of the articles to them, and then the mother asked the second part of their question:

My daughter's group needs to do a presentation for a group of people outside the class and who are not family. Is there a meeting coming up in the library they could present to? It will only be about 10 minutes long, and had to be done before Thursday.

Huh. There are always lots of programs and meetings going on in my library, but this was definitely something I should defer to our community/programming librarian to coordinate. So, I told the woman that the people who organize all our meetings will be in on Monday, and that I would leave a message for them but that she should call in Monday and hopefully they would have found something.

After they left, I checked the calendar to see what was coming up before Thursday. Unfortunately, no Friends or Trustee meetings, which I thought would have been perfect. We do have a group that meets every Tuesday to practice learning to speak English, which might have been a good fit, and we always seem due for a Department Head meeting to talk about some pressing issue.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of hearing this presentation during our Department Head meeting - it would be fun, and I quite honestly would be curious what the kids had to say about food expiration dates.

But sadly, it wasn't meant to be. When I work Saturdays I have the following Monday off, and when I came in Tuesday I was told the patron didn't call or come in on Monday. Hopefully they found another group to present to, but I think "captive audience" would have been a fun service to provide. Although, I guess I provide that on a daily basis to chatty patrons already - this is just the first time anyone has actually asked first.

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