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


Help the Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative Identify the Future Role of Public Libraries

   December 5th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Bill and Medlida Gates Foundation SignI've seen this survey popping up in lots of places, and I was asked to post it here as well. If you haven't already, please take a few minutes to fill out the survey.

This short survey is being conducted on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries (GL) Initiative. The purpose of the survey is to help the Global Libraries Initiative identify opportunities to focus their current support of public libraries in ways that foster innovation and dramatically accelerate positive and lasting change in libraries throughout the U.S. and around the world.

The vision of Global Library Initiative is one where libraries, world wide, provide public access to information for people who would not otherwise have access, and that this information is relevant to them and used in ways that improve their lives. The GL Initiative has been supporting public libraries for over 15 years because they passionately believe libraries are vital to healthy vibrant communities. Libraries offer access to information and knowledge to all community members and in doing so they bring opportunity to all.

Leadership and staff of the GL Initiative believe that public libraries are grappling with how they can best meet the needs of their communities in a time of extraordinary and rapid change. With this change, comes both challenges and opportunities. The GL Initiative wants to better understand these challenges and opportunities and identify ways in which the Foundation can support – and accelerate – libraries’ change efforts.

The GL Initiative has contracted with an independent consulting firm to reach out to a broad swath of people to get your thoughts and ideas about how public libraries can best serve their communities in a future where e-books and ubiquitous digital content is the norm. Each individual response to this survey will be anonymous, however, the aggregate responses along with common themes will be provided to the GL team to help inform their strategy for the next three years.

Please take a moment and answer this short survey. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. Your response is critical to the GL Initiative and they are committed to listening deeply to what you have to say.

Take the survey.



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/30/08

   December 6th, 2008 Brian Herzog

toy gunThis week's reference question is a series of interactions over the course of about twenty minutes. To get the full impact, I need to give some basic background on the patron.

This patron is one of our regulars at the library. He is a special needs patron, and often asks for help with spelling and things like that. However, he is a savant when it comes to anything having to do with horror films/actors, superheros and comics. Also, every so often, he lets us know he's looking for someone to hangout with, by which he means a girlfriend.

One day, he comes to the desk and asks,

How do you spell white?

I write it on a slip of paper for him, and he goes back to his computer. A few minutes later, he comes back and asks,

How do you spell girlfriend?

A few minutes after that, it's

How far away is Florida?

I try to describe it to him, and then show him on a map. Basically, the bottom line is that it's too far away to walk to, which disappoints him. He then tells me this:

I met a girl on the internet, and she's nice. She lives in Florida, and she's a sheriff. She said she wants me to get a fake gun and handcuffs and come to her house and pretend to kidnap her, and then she'll go out with me. Isn't that cool?

I was kind of stunned. Professionally of course, I can't tell him what he can and can't do. But I did give him a lecture about being careful about who he meets online and what he tells them. I also told him that showing up anywhere with a toy gun is dangerous, but he kept telling me it would be a fake gun.

Thank goodness Florida is too far to walk. I honestly don't know what I would have done if he told me this and the person was close enough for him to walk to. It feels wrong to call someone, but he could get shot or who knows what doing this.

Librarians can't monitor patrons' lives, but when a special needs person volunteers this kind of information, I do think it is our place to intervene to keep him safe. With this particular patron, I usually just need to remind him that his mom would be angry with him is she found out, and that's a good deterrent. Otherwise, I'm not sure what I could do.



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