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


Reference Question of the Week – 6/2/13

   June 8th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Stephen King with Red Sox World Series trophyI'm not exactly sure why this question stuck out in my mind this week, but it did.

One of our regular patrons is a man with special needs who LOVES horror stories, superheros, movies, television, and reading. He's either in the library or calls every day, and generally all of his questions revolve around the above topics. So, it was slightly unusual one day when he called and asked,

Can you find me Stephen King's email address? I thought of a horror story about the Red Sox I want to tell him so he can write a story about it.

A perfectly reasonable request, and I actually became a little curious about what kind of horror could involve a baseball team.

Generally for these kind of celebrity-contact questions, I always turn to our copy of The Celebrity Black Book, but since I was on the phone I just did a web search.

StephenKing.com was rightly the first search result, and I clicked into the Contact Us form to see if it had an option for submitting story ideas. Not too surprisingly, the form made it clear that it did not go to Stephen King. Then I noticed an FAQ link in the site's navigation bar, so I tried that.

One FAQ was "What is your email address?" which, again, was unsurprising in that it said Stephen King has no public email address (but did refer people to the message boards, which he does apparently follow).

A little lower on the page was the question, "Do you accept story ideas," which was answered,

No, I don't. I really have enough story ideas of my own. Every now and then somebody will advance a concept the way that my foreign rights agent, Ralph Vicinanza suggested wouldn't it be fun to do a modern-day serial story. The result of that was The Green Mile which was published in installments-these little paperback books--but he never suggested what sort of story I might have written in installments and I wouldn't have accepted it if he had done that. I believe in thinking up my own ideas. I really have enough. I really think if I have two or three ideas ahead I'm in totally great shape.

I paraphrased this for my patron, which he seemed to readily accept (and that was surprising) and hung up. Later in the day I did check The Celebrity Black Book, and it does include Stephen King's agent. I briefly weighed the idea of providing this to my patron the next time I saw him, because that's what librarians do, right? Birddog the information through whatever resources possible until we can provide the patron with an answer.

In the end though, I decided against giving the patron the agent's contact info - although the patron asked contact information, the actual answer to his question is that Stephen King does not accept story ideas. Getting in touch with the agent wouldn't have done any good, and so I would have essentially been providing the wrong answer, or misinformation, to the patron. This is kind of an oddly fine line, but it gave me something to think about this week.

This particular patron has written a few stories of his own in the past, so I encouraged him to do it again. And if he does, I'll help him post it to the message board.

But the fact that Stephen King doesn't accept story ideas got me thinking. I remember from high school that Weird Al Yankovic also does not accept song ideas, with the reason given being "legal reasons" (which I've always thought meant he didn't want to get into a royalties fight with someone who thought Al was making a lot of money off an idea a they submitted). But it makes sense that prolifically-creative people have no shortage of their own ideas, and prefer to grow them into a work following their own process. I've never looked into this, but it got me wondering if any famous creator does openly accept fan submissions, and then grow them into a finished work. Has anyone heard of this happening?



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/27/11

   December 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Cultural Road Show logoThis week's question made me laugh, and then made me think - and I wasn't the only one.

One of the programs going on at my library right now is something call the "Cultural Road Show." The idea behind it is to increase awareness of the museums and other cultural organizations in the community, by having one of them come to the library each month and give a program on their group/collection.

Essentially, get the museums to get a small exhibit "on the road" and bring it to the library (one nice side effect is that it also promotes our museum passes). We're using the bus image to reenforce the "road trip" theme, and also are scanning people's library cards as they enter (sort of like an EZPass going through a toll booth) which enters people into drawing for prizes from the museums.

Our Community/Programming Librarian has been doing a good job of organizing and promoting it, and the first few road shows have been pretty well-attended.

But this week, a patron walked up to the circulation desk and said:

I saw signs for this Cultural Road Show - what time does the bus get here, and do you have a schedule of all the places where we'll be stopping?

Of course, obvious and honest misunderstandings like this are humorous, mainly because this approach never even occurred to anyone on the staff - and we all had a good laugh.

But then we all thought, why not plan a road trip for patrons to actually visit museums? Just because the idea didn't originate with a staff person doesn't mean we can't do it. We need to look into the feasibility of that kind of program, but we all liked the sound of it.

It reminded me of Jessamyn's recent post about the trend in library programs to do new things - sometimes, the best way to come up with new ideas is to ask patrons.



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Librarian Holiday Gift Guide

   December 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Festivus PoleDo you know what I enjoy more than telling people where the bathroom is? Shopping.

In case anyone is pestering you for gift ideas, they could read How To Get Good Gifts for Librarians, or use the links below to find something for the librarian in their life.

And finally, the Washington Post's fiction critic picks special gifts for the book lover (via LISNews):



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Salem Press Great Reference Idea Contest

   December 7th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Salem PressThe following came in email from Peter W. Tobey, Director of Sales & Marketing for Salem Press. I thought it was something worth publicizing and supporting - check it out:

The Great Reference Idea Contest

Salem is tinkering with a way to learn more about the changing landscape of reference. In this particular instance, we're wondering about what new content areas (or emphasis) might be on the minds of students, patrons and librarians. So, we're asking.

We'd like librarians to suggest titles and/or subject areas for new reference. Everything is on the table. Every idea is welcome, covering any subject. Our hope is that librarians will ask for the reference their patrons and students need but can't find.

WINNERS
The first three librarians whose suggestions on any specific subject become new Salem Press reference will receive that reference free. That's it, very simple: Be among the first three with an idea and we'll give you the reference when (and if) we publish it.

SUBMISSIONS
Librarians should email ptobey@salempress.com with their ideas. Librarians may submit as many ideas as they'd like. In fact, the more the merrier.

For a press release on the program, click Press Release. Hope you enjoy this...

Peter W. Tobey
Director, Sales & Marketing
Salem Press
Voice: (201) 968-9599
Email: ptobey@salempress.com

I appreciate publishers taking an interest in the development and future direction of the library world, and this cooperative approach to identify need, rather than just pushing whatever they have to sell.

I haven't come up with any earth-shattering ideas, but I'll definitely submit something.

(Image: energy-saving light bulb by AA, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from sloth_rider's photostream)



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