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


Reference Question of the Week – 10/5/14

   October 11th, 2014 Brian Herzog

The AnglerOne Saturday I was working at the desk with a coworker. She answered the phone, and it was a patron asking for a print of Winslow Homer's "Fishing the Falls." He said it's not one of his public works, and is in a private collection, and that's why he can't find any information about it online.

After my coworker hung up, she spent some time looking for it. After a little while with no success, she asked me to help - and then left for lunch. Slackers.

It didn't appear in the index of any of our Homer books in the 700s, but by searching for "fishing the falls" and "winslow homer" I did find a few websites that showed a painting with that name.

However, it was conspicuously missing from http://www.winslow-homer.com which bills itself as "The Complete Works." Also, it bothered me that it wasn't in any of our books, nor really anywhere else.

So I got the idea of doing a reverse-image search. I used the image from http://images.easyart.com/i/prints/rw/lg/1/0/Winslow-Homer-Fishing-The-Falls-10757.jpg and found a lot more sites with that same image - but more importantly, many of them had it listed as "The Angler." Ah ha.

This time I had more success searching for it by name, including http://www.winslow-homer.com/The-Angler.html - still though, not in any of the books we had. However, I did find a book online with a Publisher's Weekly review that specifically mentioned it:

Of its 184 illustrations, 123 are in color, with an emphasis on full-page reproduction of watercolors, including The Angler (1874), showing a raffish, bearded man casting with panache into a cascading river.

And some of the websites did indeed indicate it was in a private collection.

My coworker called the patron back and asked him to describe the painting, and sure enough, this was the one he was looking for. He actually wanted to buy a print, so she read him some pricing from different places it was for sale to give him an idea of the cost.

The patron seemed happy with the information, and my coworker seemed suitably impressed that I could apparently conjure an answer out of thin air after she had no luck. So overall it was a pretty good way to spend time while someone was at lunch.



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/13/12

   May 19th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Gray Barn in Fall, by A. Hale JohnsonThis question wasn't difficult in the least, just kind of fun - and great because I got to give a patron very good news.

On Friday, a patron called in and asked if I could go to the website of Skinner auction house. He said he had an item that was included in their auction that day, and wanted to see how much it sold for.

Finding the website was no problem, but it took me a little while to find the right auction results. The auction went from noon to 4pm, and the patron called about 2:30. So, although I found the auction results, it turned out his item hadn't come up yet. We did learn that his item was estimated to sell for between $1,200-1,800, which sounded good. He thanked me and said he'd call back in a little bit.

About 4:30 he called back, thinking that since the auction ended at 4pm, all the results would be posted. But they weren't - they were still only about halfway through, and his lot was towards the end.

I told him we were open until 5:30, and he's welcome to call back, or I could keep checking and call him. But, he said he was leaving for the day, so he'd just stop in the next morning.

It was my Saturday to work, so I was at the desk when he came in right at 9:30. I think we were both kind of excited as we went back to the website and looked up the auction results. Everything had been posted by then, so we scrolled down to his lot number to see how it did. Amazing: $4,148.

The patron was astonished, and had to ask me a couple times if that was the actual sale value. We doubled-checked by looking at the individual item listing, and sure enough, his painting sold for $4,148. However, because of Skinner's 15% commission, he'll only receive $3,500, but he still had a big smile on his face as he walked away from the desk.

Wow, what a nice way to start a weekend.



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Reference Question of the Week – 1/15/12

   January 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog

Colored pencilsThis question was short and sweet, and in addition to making me laugh, left me a little confused. A patron walks up to the desk and asks:

Can you show me where the painting books are?

I asked her if she meant books on how to paint, books of paintings by famous artists, or books on painting your house, and she said the how-to books. So I took her to the 751's, and she said that was exactly what she was looking for and would browse for awhile.

I went back to the desk, and maybe five minutes later the patron came back up:

Patron: Those were okay, but not what I was looking for. Can you show me there the books are about painting with pencils?
Me: Oh sure, the drawing books are...
Patron: No, not drawing, I mean painting with colored pencils.

I had no idea what painting with colored pencils could possibly be besides drawing, so I just searched our catalog for colored pencils to see what came up. It wasn't much of a surprise that a lot of drawing books came up, so I took the patron to the 741.2's and actually found a book called Painting light with colored pencil. Again, she said that was exactly what she was looking for, and that she'd look around.

I went back to the desk a little puzzled, as I didn't know why there was a stigma on "drawing."

It must be a thing though, because a little while later the patron stopped by the desk again to thank me. When she did, I noticed she was carrying two more books: Masterful color : vibrant colored pencil paintings layer by layer and Drawing workbook : a complete course in ten lessons. But she left happy, so it was a good day.



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