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


Librarian Q&A Forum At StackExchange Now Live!

   May 30th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Unshelved comic stripGreat News - the Libraries and Information Science question and answer forum, by librarians for librarian, is now open for business! Check it out:

http://libraries.stackexchange.com

This is the long-awaited replacement for Unshelved Answers - at least, I've been waiting for it, because I used it all the time. I love that librarians have a place to ask each other questions, share tips, ideas, and best practices, and just easily communicate - all with a searchable archive.

Thanks to all the early committers and beta testers. If this is completely new to you, please check it out - it's worth it, and is definitely useful professional development.



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Google is not The Way to Salvation

   June 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I passed this church sign while walking around Ottawa:

Google Church Sign

I'm used to hearing the "Google is not as good as libraries" rhetoric, so it was funny to see another profession facing the same struggle. By the way, Bibles in my library are shelved at 220.5/Bibl - maybe our slogan should be, "find a library, find your way."



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Reference Question of the Week – 12/13/09

   December 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Customer Service ComicSince it's the season for goodwill towards men and all that, here are some exchanges that are the exact opposite. Boing Boing linked to a bookstore's website that posts funny conversations he has with his customers.

Hey, bookstores get reference questions, too. What I thought was funny was how many times a library was mentioned - and how he referred the really hopeless people to us:

[a customer calls the store and asks...]
How can you tell if a book is old?
Age is a state of mind.
OK. But what makes a book old?
It's relative kind of thing.
OK. But, hum, how do you know if it is old?
Try looking at the date.
Where's that?
Usually on the copyright page.
Where's that?
At the library.
OK, thanks.

Yeah, yeah, we have that page - it's on the same shelf as Sherlock Holmes' biography, our photographs of Socrates, and our primary sources on dinosaurs. Lots more healthy cynicism on the bookstore's website.



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/8/09

   November 14th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Yahoo! Answers logoThis entertained me, so I thought I'd share - Huffington Post collected some funny responses to questions asked on Yahoo Answers.

I wouldn't call them the "funniest of all time" - most of them were snarky answers or just really bad questions. But the one about the sandwich did make me laugh out loud.

Occasionally I use Yahoo Answers to help with a patron's question, but like with any traditional or crowd-sourced resource, it needs to be evaluated critically (and enjoyed).



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Tests for Hiring and Training

   July 30th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Cones in the stacksOne of my coworkers and her husband run Gibson's Bookstore, in Concord, NH. When hiring new employees, each applicant is given a knowledge of literature test to see how well they'll do at reader's advisory.

Their opinion is that bookstore staff are first and foremost reading advisers, and cashiers and stockers second. The test questions cover a broad scope of literature, just like the questions of customers (and library patrons):

2) Name five characters invented by William Shakespeare.
13) What is Ender Wiggin famous for?
14) James and the Giant ________ by Roald _______.
23) Why do some Sneetches feel superior to others?

To get hired, applicants must get at least half of the questions right. Perhaps libraries could implement something similar? Perhaps they already do.

I also have a list of reference questions and tasks I give to reference staff after they've been hired, to help with training. It is based on something my director found (can't remember what or where), but I tailored it to get new staff familiar with the type of questions we get, our collection, our policies, basic tech support, and reference in general. They get it as a Word document, and work on it for their first few months.

Some people like tests and some don't. But each in their own way, I think these tests are valuable to make sure that the people interacting with the public are really able to help the public.



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/31/09

   June 6th, 2009 Brian Herzog

In this funny video, replace "dad" with "library patron" and it's a reference question many librarians know all too well. At least, for the first third of the video - after that, it gets kind of weird and definitely violates the appropriate library behavior policy.

via Huffington Post



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