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


Reference Question of the Week – 10/25/09

   October 31st, 2009 Brian Herzog

ElviraThis question actually made my week. With no warning, a flustered patron rushes up to the desk:

Hi. What's Elvira doing now? Is she dead?

The control I have over my laugh-response sometimes astounds me.

I really had no idea, and neither of us knew her real name, so the first stop was an Internet Movie Database search for Elvira. There we learned her real name is Cassandra Peterson, which I then looked up on WhosAliveAndWhosDead.com to see if she was still alive. Happily, she is.

To find out what she's doing now, I started with a general Google search for elvira 2009, which, among other interesting websites, led to Elvira.com - What's New?. Not surprisingly, she's a busy woman this time of year - multiple appearances in New Jersey this weekend, as well as being a special guest on this week's Medium.

The patron was hoping she was hosting (hostessing?) some kind of spooky movie marathon this weekend, but I couldn't find anything. He asked how far away New Jersey was, and after I told him, he said he doesn't have a car and would have to walk, so he's not going to go. He just wanted to know.

But his parting words were positive:

At least she's not dead, so maybe she'll show some movies next year.

Hope springs eternal. Happy Halloween.



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Reference Question of the Week – 10/28/07

   November 3rd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Jack O'Lantern photographI know I kind of missed the boat with these (after all, Halloween was three days ago - now it's time for Christmas), but here are two Halloween-related questions from this week:

Halloween Question 1
A patron called in on Halloween night:

Patron: How do you spell "satanic?"
Me: Oh, it's S-A-T...
Patron: Wait, wait, let me get a pencil and paper...
...
...
...
Patron: ...okay, go ahead.
Me: It's S-A-T...
Patron: That's too fast!
Me: I'm sorry; it's S...A...T...A...N...I...C
Patron: Okay, thanks. [click]

Who knows what that was about. Also, it amazes me that only about 10% of the people I talk to on the phone around here say "goodbye" before they hang up.

Halloween Question 2
A patron called in on Tuesday (Oct. 30th), and asked:

I'm having Halloween dinner party tomorrow night, and want to have a Halloween trivia contest. I don't have time to come to the library, so can you find some Halloween trivia and email it to me?

Normally, I try to discourage the reference staff from actually doing the patron's work for them (as opposed to teaching or helping them), but in this case I decided to just do it.

All it took was a web search for "halloween trivia," and then copy/pasting ten questions from various websites into a Word file. I then converted this to pdf and emailed it to the patron.

Since this was obviously not an academic assignment, I was willing to bend the rules. Plus, I always like being able to help people according to their lifestyle needs - in this case, a phone call and an email was all it took for this patron to get the information she needed.

That is much better, I think, than making her come into the library so I could help her find websites and then show her how to copy/paste and then format text in Word and then charging her $0.15 to print it. What took me about ten minutes saved this patron who knows how much time, and that's the impression of the library I want our patrons to have.

By the way, some of the Halloween trivia is below, and the rest (and the answers to these questions) is in the pdf file [7kb] (it's nothing special, trust me).

What ancient festival is considered to have evolved into our modern Halloween?

  • Lammas
  • Beltane
  • Samhain
  • Ostara

How much money is spent on Halloween candy annually in the United States?

  • $1 million
  • $200 million
  • $500 million
  • $2 billion

According to legend, a unibrow, tattoos, and a long middle finger are all signs of what Halloween creature?

  • a werewolf
  • a vampire
  • a witch
  • a golem

How many "witches" were burned at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials?

  • Twelve
  • Twenty
  • Thirty-three
  • None

Ghosts that do pranks are known as what?

  • Spookers
  • Poltergeists
  • Ghosts
  • Specters

What are male witches called?

  • Warlocks
  • Morlocks
  • Manwitches
  • Sorcerors
  • Gingriches

Download the pdf file [7kb] for the answers to these (and more) questions.

Some of the sources I used for this project are:
http://www.halloween-website.com/trivia.htm
http://www.usefultrivia.com/holiday_trivia/halloween_trivia_index.html
http://www.brownielocks.com/halloweentrivia.html
http://www.quizland.com/halloween.mv

halloween, halloween trivia, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, satanic, trivia, trivia questions



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