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

Reference Question of the Week – 9/6/15

   September 12th, 2015 Brian Herzog

girl on phoneI work with little kids every day, but it's slightly unusual for me to help a kid over the phone. On Wednesday night this week, a little girl called about 8pm, and asked to be transferred to the Children's Room. No problem.

A couple minutes later the phone rang again, and it was the same small sweet voice. She said she'd tried calling the Children's Room twice but no one answered, so asked if I could help her find a book. Again, no problem.

We looked up the two Dork Diaries books she wanted, and placed holds on them. That didn't take very long, and when we were finished I asked her if there was anything else I could do. She said,

Well, yes. I've never called the Children's Room before and they didn't answer. I'm kind of worried something happened to them, so could you check to make sure they're okay?

I tried not to laugh, and explained that there was only one staff person in the room tonight and maybe she was helping someone else on a big project and couldn't make it to the phone, but that yes, I would check. She said thanks and hung up.

It turned out the Children's Room person was just getting back from her break when I checked on her, so all was well.

Another funny thing about this call was that when I said the books were checked out, so we'd request them for her and call when they were ready to pick up, she asked if that was the only option. I thought she meant email or text instead of calling, but no, she meant could we bring them to her house or school instead of her having to come here to get them. Not unreasonable, but I've also never been asked that by a six-year-old sounding voice before.

It's hard to say no to that, but she understood and said she'd ask her mom for a ride to the library.

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Reference Question of the Week – 1/31/10

   February 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Child poetPerhaps it's just my hyperactive paranoia, but anytime someone asked me an unusual question or acts strangely, I think it's some kind of "secret shopper" evaluating my performance. Case in point, a little while ago the reference desk received the following email:

is there a contest I can use to make my kid a famous poet?

That was it - no name, no other information, just that one line. The email address seemed legitimate, so I researched it a bit and replied:

I think I'll need a little bit more information from you, but I do have some suggestions. It would be helpful to know the age of the child, and also what you're looking for in a contest: are you looking for a venue for live readings, a mail-in contest with winners and prizes, just somewhere that will print poetry from children, or something else entirely?

Our Childrens Rooms subscribes to lots of magazines that accept poetry submissions from children. They're not exactly contests, but the poetry is judged to see if it's worthy of publishing in their magazines. One magazine that publishes a lot of poetry is "New Moon" but others do as well.

The Chelmsford Library has a "poetry slam" every April, which is open to all ages. It is a contest in which winners are chosen, but as our website says, it is a gentle contest. And it's held in April because that is National Poetry Month - during that month, there are a lot of other local poetry-related events, but those usually aren't announced or publicized until closer to April.

There are also lots of online poetry contests - here are a few websites I found:

Another resource is the Massachusetts Poetry Festival website, which is building a database of both poets and venues. It doesn't seem like it's ready yet, but their website has a list of the people building the database, so they may have information on contests they could provide you with.

Lastly, I found a article on the eHow.com website that probably says a lot of what you already know, but also had a few interesting tips relating to childrens' poetry contests.

The woman here who organizes the poetry slams is out for the first part of this week, but I think she will have more ideas. I'll ask her when she comes back, and will email you with whatever else she can suggest. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions, or if you can be more specific about what you are looking for. Thanks, and take care.

This was at least a month ago, and I never got a response. I'm not sure if it was real or not, but if it was, I hope it was helpful. However (and granted, I am not a parent), it always bothers me when people refer to their child as "kid" and when it seemed parents are forcing their kids* into something for their own benefit. To wit:

Bruno Parenting FAIL video:


*Oddly, although calling one child "kid" bothers me, referring to a group of children as "kids" is perfectly fine. "Lady" works the same way - calling one woman "lady" seems rude, but referring to a group of women as "ladies" is okay. I am a complex person.

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