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

Reference Question of the Week – 4/17/16

   April 23rd, 2016 Brian Herzog

featureSince I am helping patrons less than before, the relative number of reference and tech support questions I get from staff have gone up. This is one of those.

One day right as I was getting ready to leave for the day, someone working at the Circ Desk called down to say that Evergreen (our ILS) wouldn't open. That's weird, but important enough for me to stick around a few minutes to try to fix it.

When I got upstairs and asked for details, my coworker said,

Well, something bad happened to the computer and it froze, so I forced it to shut down and then restarted it. When it came back up and I clicked on Evergreen on the desktop, it wouldn't open.

Now that is odd. I had no idea what "something bad" might have entailed, but at least the computer was on and working, so that's a good sign. I double-clicked the desktop shortcut and sure enough, it didn't work - I got that "cannot find target" error. Thinking just that shortcut got changed somehow, I tried the icon in the Start Bar, and then the one in the Start Menu, but kept getting the same error.

Hmm. So I looked at the target of the three, and all of them were the same. Also odd. I browse out to that directory, expecting to see the evergreen.exe file they were pointing at, but it's not there. I check look at that directory on a different computer that is working, and sure enough, there is an evergreen.exe file.

Now that is weird. This was far enough down into the directory structure that I didn't think any staff would have accidentally deleted it, but I couldn't think how else something would have happened to this single file and left everything else in the directory.

The immediate fix that comes to mind is to completely reinstall Evergreen, which is a pain, and I'm still trying to get out the door to go home. So, I figure what the heck, I'll just copy/paste the evergreen.exe from the good computer into that same directory on the problem computer and see what happens. This is like Windows 3.x stuff, and figure it's an incredible long shot.

But holy smokes, it actually works! I copied that file to the network and then pasted it in from there, and when I clicked the desktop shortcut on the problem computer, it opened right up as if nothing ever happened. I don't really understand it, but I'll take it - at least as a temporary fix to get Circ through the evening.

In the morning I asked our IT guy to reinstall Evergreen on that computer for real, because I figure what I did was fragile and didn't address whatever the "something bad" was that started this whole thing. Before he did that, he did some checking on the computer and then got back to me:

Symantec classified Evergreen as a virus yesterday. I didn’t check but I presume that Evergreen.exe was moved to the Quarantine area. When you copied it back to the original location you resolved the issue. There should be no need to reinstall.

Sort of an unusual thing. I modified our Symantec policy to exclude this file. It shouldn't happen again.

Wow. I have no idea why Symantec suddenly took an intense dislike to the most important application we use every day, but there you go.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 4/10/16

   April 16th, 2016 Brian Herzog

gonefishingsignAs Assistant Director, I'm definitely spending less time at a public desk than I expected. As such, far more of my patron interactions are actually either referrals of difficult patrons from the front-line staff, or else just stories heard second-hand. The latter is today's question.

We're doing some construction next door to my library, which means staff temporarily needs to park across the street. It's a longer walk, which is fine, but it also means we park in the lot of a strip mall that houses restaurants, a gym, drug store, bank, etc.

As I was crossing from that lot to the library one day, coming the other direction was a coworker from the reference desk who was leaving for lunch with her friend. They were going to the restaurant in the strip mall across from the library, since it was so close.

Later that day I asked her how her lunch was, and learned that the restaurant was closed - but only temporarily. Apparently there was a sign on the door saying the owners were on vacation, and they'd closed the restaurant for a week while they were gone.

She was annoyed by this and shocked that any business owner would do such a thing, but I think it's kind of cool that small businesses like this still exist, and only operate when the people who run them are available.

My coworker ended her lunch story by telling me to wait a week before I went there. However, this a Japanese restaurant and thus not on my "wheel of lunch," so I didn't think her news would be useful to me.

But then, two days later, that same coworker told me this:

Brian, you're never going to believe the call I just got. The patron said,

Hi, this might be a crazy question, but I called Town Hall and they referred me to you. Do you know if that Japanese restaurant across the street from the library is open?

Ha. She and I might have been the only people in the library able to answer that question. You never know what information will be helpful to you as a reference librarian.

Tags: , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 2/14/16

   February 20th, 2016 Brian Herzog

water pumpSometimes, what would have otherwise been an ordinary, simple question, gets asked with a slight twist and I just know it's going to be the question of the week.

Last Saturday, a college-age male patron walked up to the desk carrying an empty water bottle and asked,

Where is your Brita filtered filler station?

A coworker was with me at the desk at the time, and both of us kind of paused - long enough, apparently, that the patron then said,

Well, maybe you don't have one...

We get asked regularly where the bathrooms are, and only slightly less frequently if we have a drinking fountain*. We explained to him where the drinking fountain was, and he seemed happy enough for it.

I wonder if he actually expected a Brita-filtered tap, or free-standing water cooler. Maybe that's what they exclusively use in his house or college, to the point that he's just so used to saying "Brita filter" that it's the name he uses for any water dispensing device.

Regardless, it suddenly made me feel like a 19th-century library and the best we had to offer was an old farm water pump out back. I mean, I' very happy we still offer a typewriter to patrons, but I never thought our drinking fountain would become retro too.


*In New England, at least this part, they call drinking fountains "bubblers," which I think is funny. They also call pop "tonic."

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 2/7/16

   February 13th, 2016 Brian Herzog

IIA patron walked up one afternoon and asked if I could show her if she was "typing in Roman Numeral two."

Sometimes, I figure I'll better understand the question once I see their computer screen, so I just said "sure" and got up and walked down to her computer with her.

When I get there, I see that it looks like she's started typing a term paper - heading, professor name, date. I think maybe it's an outline or something that needs Roman Numerals, so right where the cursor is blinking, I just type two capital I's and tell her that that's Roman Numeral two. It doesn't look very impressive, and I glance up onto the Word ribbons and notice the font is Calibri size 11.

The patron wasn't really impressed either, and said,

That's it? I don't know what she meant, but my teacher said we needed to type in Roman Numeral two.

Ah, now that, for some reason, made more sense. I deleted the two capital I's I just typed, Ctrl-A'd to highlight the entire page, showed the patron how to change the font to Times New Roman - while at the same time explaining that I have heard of some professors requiring a particular font, especially a serif font like Times New Roman, because supposedly it's easier to read. The patron indifferently acknowledged that I had just formed words, and said,

Well, that could be what she said. I was rushing at the end of class, but that looks fine to me.

Okay. She had her assignment sheet next to the computer she was working on, and I glanced down to hopefully see a font requirement spelled out as part of the project. I didn't see it, but noticed ironically the assignment sheet was printed in Calibri.

Towards the end of the night as the patron was leaving, she smiled and waved. Hopefully Times is what she needed, but I'm not sure I'll ever find out.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 1/31/16

   February 6th, 2016 Brian Herzog

The.I've said this before and I'll say it again, but I know that sometimes, some things are funny only to me. One day this week, a patron walks up to the desk and says,

Patron: Can you help me find a book? The title is, The [szuunnttz] of Murder.
Me: I'm sorry, what was that first word - "sounds" or "silence?"
Patron: "The."
Me: Um...

And then she set her phone down on the desk and spun it around so I could see the title: The silence of murder, by Dandi Daley Mackall.

Ha. I blame our cataloger for constantly drilling into me to ignore the leading article in a title when typing it into a library catalog. Unfortunately, I can apparently no longer tell the difference between typing a title into a computer and asking a real live patron what the title is. Oh well.

Th good news is that the book was in the catalog, and I showed the patron how to place a request for it, so everyone was happy. Even the patron, who perhaps now thinks I'm an idiot. Oh well. It also made me wonder if patrons have blogs where they share all their stories of crazy interactions with librarians - now that would be interesting.

Tags: , , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 1/17/16

   January 23rd, 2016 Brian Herzog

LANGUIGE CROSSWORDAfter I published the post on Wednesday about the likelihood of this blog changing due to my new position, I forgot to mention that until we hire a new Head of Reference (which will probably take a few weeks), I'm keeping my normal desk schedule - and so should be able to keep up with Reference Questions of the Week.

Wednesday is my 1-9pm shift, and I published that post from home that morning. I decided that when I got to work that day, the very first reference question I got would be this week's post. Usually I just take notes whenever something comes up that is interesting or funny, but I thought a random "slice of reference life" might be appropriate this week.

So, here it is: I sat down at the desk and the phone rings...

Me: Chelmsford Library, can I help you?
Patron: Can you tell me how to spell "language?"
Me: Oh sure, it's-
Patron: Does it have an "i" in it?
Me: No, it's spelled l-a-n-g-u-a-
Patron: Is it u-i-g-e?
Me: ... [waiting to make sure the patron has finished talking] It's l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e.
Patron: Oh, so an "a" and not an "i?"
Me: Yes, l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e.
Patron: Okay, thank you.
Me: You're welcome, good-bye.

This is one of our regular phone patrons, and most of her calls are like this. We suspect she works crossword puzzles.

Not every reference interaction is funny or interesting, but it's true that any of them can be.

Tags: , , , , , , ,