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


Reference Question of the Week – 5/25/08

   May 31st, 2008 Brian Herzog

Money in gas canAs I'm sure you've heard, gas prices are on the rise. Stations around here are still hovering in the $3.90 range, but $4.00/gallon can't be far away. I am sure that's what prompted this week's exchange:

Patron: Can you tell me about, gas prices... and, um... fuel economy... ?
Me: Well, maybe. What kind of information are you looking for?
Patron: C'mon, you know, gas prices, and tips, and stuff. Is it real?

After a bit more of this, I learned that the patron:

  1. received an email forward from a friend with driving tips that claim to save gas, and also a list of gas stations that sell gas made from oil from Middle Eastern countries,
  2. wanted to know if there were real driving tips that could save gas, and,
  3. wanted to see national gas prices and find the cheapest gas in town.

I've seen the gas imports email before, and lately have been seeing and hearing gas saving tips everywhere. We started searching the internet for information about driving tips, and found lots. Here's my attempt at organizing those that look reliable:

Driving Tips To Save Gas

Gas Price Listings

Other Fuel Economy Information

Of course, the best tips are to drive less (by walking, biking or riding public transportation), or buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. None of those were practical options for the patron, so he was pretty happy to get this list when I emailed it to him later that day.



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The Right Way To Organize Books

   July 12th, 2007 Brian Herzog

cover of Sewer, Gas and ElectricI finished Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas and Electric last night, and found one more good library-related quote. This one pretty much speaks for itself; especially with libraries trying alternatives.

"The call number was the hard part," Kite said. "The call number we got from the video tape was in Dewey Decimal classification code; this library uses the Library of Congress code."

"What did you have to do, translate it?"...

"It's not that simple," Kite said. "You know I never appreciated it before this afternoon, but library filing systems are remarkably arbitrary."

"There's no one right way to organize books, huh?"

Indeed.

classification, classification system, classification systems, ddc, dewey, dewey decimal, electric, gas, libraries, library, library of congress, loc, matt ruff, sewer, sewer gas and electric



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Where The Naked People Are

   July 5th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Unshelved comicI love it when completely unconnected things converge to create a complimentary coincidence. Conspiracy? Come on...

Today's confluence involves the Unshelved comic from 6/29/07 (click the image to read the entire strip), and the book I'm currently reading, Sewer, Gas & Electric, by Matt Ruff.

The quote below, like previous quotes, concerns libraries, but unlike them, is a bit lengthy (but it's worth it):

...Maxwell had also found a vocation of sorts, unpaid but satisfying, even addicting.

He moved library books.

"You ever notice how you can't find any naked pictures in a library?" Maxwell would sometimes say to strangers on the subway, by way of explanation. "What I mean is, you're a kid, your voice changes, and one day you start and wonder if you could find a book with naked pictures at the public library. Like, could they have bought one by mistake, put it on the shelf where even a kid could get at it. So you look up subjects like 'Erotica' and 'Nude Photography' in the catalog, and it turns out they have some hot-sounding titles, like An Illustrated History of Pornographic Films. But when you check for the call numbers on the shelf, those kinds of books are never in. Hell, you might find one that's all text, in French, but if it's a book with actual naked pictures, it won't be there. Even if the catalog says it's on the shelf, it wont' be there. Even if you come back and check every day for a month - when you voice changes, you do that kind of thing - it'll never be there. Like it's been removed. Surgically.

"Well, you know, I figured out why that is, not just at one library but at any library you go to. ...it just hit me: there's a conspiracy. Guys all over the country, a secret brotherhood. They come into every library first thing in the morning, and they grab all the books with naked pictures before anybody else can get to them. They don't take them out, and they don't steal them or burn then, they just refile them. They put the books with naked pictures in boring parts of the library, stick 'em in between the books that nobody ever reads. Then, later, when the kids whose voices are changing come in, the members of the brotherhood just stand back and laugh up their sleeve. It's a very important job."

That is, of course, unless you happen to be browsing the reference collection in the Muskingham Muskingum College Library.

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