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


Reference Question of the Week – 6/6/10

   June 12th, 2010 Brian Herzog

You Bet Your Life logoA middle-aged male patron approached me while I was at the desk alone and asked,

Do you know any good jokes?

In fact I do, so I told him my current favorite:

A duck walks into a bar wearing one shoe. The bartender says, "Hey duck, you lost a shoe." And the duck says, "Nope, I found one."

Awesome. Anyway, he said he liked it, but he wanted a lot of jokes. I showed him where our humor section* was, and he said he'd look around.

A little while later, he came back up to the desk and said he wanted jokes delivered by text message to his phone. We started searching the internet for "jokes by text" and "joke of the day" and found a ton of jokes people could retype and send out as text messages. There were also lots of jokes by email, and other joke sites, but most looked kind of sketchy.

Then we found Comedy Central's jokes.com. It offers signups for a joke of the day by both email and text, and they seem reputable enough to trust. The text messages were not free, and when he saw that he kind of gave up on the idea.

Before he left, he asked if I knew any other good jokes, so I told him my all-time favorite:

A hotdog walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food."

Ah, the many required skills of a librarian.

 


*Of all the classes of the Dewey Decimal System, the 800's irritate me the most. Patrons just want to browse for poetry, but no, the books are arranged geographically by the author's country, and sometimes chronologically by publication date, which means similar books are in multiple sections. Our humor books are in 818.5 (or .6), which is something like Literature > Miscellaneous Writings > American Authors of the 20th (or 21st) Century, but could also be in the 808's, 817's, 827's, blah blah blah.



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Online Book Signings

   April 1st, 2009 Brian Herzog

Although the Kindle and other ebook devices are growing steadily in popularity, there is one advantage that libraries and bookstores still have: author visits and book signings.

Getting to listen to and meet an author in person is a great experience. And it's something that you can only do in person - right? Not any more. Amazon has announced a new program in an effort to recreate this experience for its Kindle customers.

The new "Online Book Signings" portion of their Digital Text Platform lets Kindle customers watch a live webcast of an author talking about their book, and ask the author questions via realtime chat.

But the best part is that people who buy a Kindle version of the book will also be able to get it personalized and signed by the author. A demo (Kindle not required) of three titles is below - click a title, type in your name, and then download the signed book to your Kindle. Pretty neat.

The World Is Flat cover
The World Is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman
The Graveyard Book cover
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
Just After Sunset cover
Just After Sunset
by Stephen King

This might start a whole new market for digital autographs - so collect all three!



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Libraries to Start Lending Money

   March 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

cash on shelfConsidering the current economic times, this might actually be a good idea - but I think they should've waited until April 1st to announce it.

...From today, customers borrowing books will also be able to take out financial loans for a period of three weeks, though it may be possible to renew the terms of these agreements provided no other customer is waiting to borrow the cash...

Read more here. Thanks, VAT.



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“New Program” At My Library

   April 2nd, 2007 Brian Herzog

This email was sent to all the staff at my library yesterday, for an April Fools joke - it met with mixed results:

Announcing a New Reference Program

In order to reach out to teenagers who use the internet more than the library, the Reference Department is launching a new program designed to appeal to these kids.

Since kids are online so much, this new program is geared to reach kids where they spend time. Instead of the Reference Desk, we will use accounts on MySpace and Facebook, and launch a new blog with podcasts and YouTube videos. This will show the kids that the library is as hip and cool as they are, which will make them more comfortable in asking us questions.

We also came up with a hip and cool name and image for the program, based around the look and language of teens today. To show that we're funky-fresh, the program will be called "RephrenZ" (the teen's phonetical spelling of "reference).

A core service of this program will be a new 24/7 chat/IM reference service. The Friends of the Library have graciously given the library funds to purchase five new laptop computers, one for each member of the Reference Staff.

To be able to answer chat and IM reference questions day or night, all Reference Staff will be required to carry their laptops with them at all times, and answer chat questions during their regular desk shifts as well as while they are at home. The Friends are also buying two extra laptops, so other staff can volunteer to answer chat reference questions from home.

The blog and chat login and everything else will be centered in our new website. For more information, please visit Da Rephrenz webpage at http://www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/rephrenz

Are you ready to Git Yo Reph On?!?

Brian



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