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


Reference Question of the Week – 8/8/10

   August 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Sign: This machine has no brain - use your own.I enjoy being a librarian, and working with the public. But it can be challenging, and sometimes you just need to vent.

No matter what people ask me, I make sure the words that come out of my mouth are helpful and positive - however, those aren't always the first words that spring to mind.

In the anti-spirit of my post from Thursday, here are some answers I have not given to questions patrons have asked me. You've heard of FAQs - now here are some ALUs ("answers left unsaid"):

  • Patron: The book isn't on the shelf, on a cart, or behind the desk - where else could it be?
    Answer: In someone else's home.
  • Patron: This computer is loading slowly - should I just sit here and wait?
    Answer: You could stand.
  • Patron: All the bathrooms are in use, where else can I go?
    Answer: There are bushes outside.
  • [five computers in a row rebooted while a particular patron was using them because she keeps pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL, after I showed her that CTRL-ALT-DEL reboots computers]
    Patron: I'm sure it's not something I'm doing.
    Answer: Hmm, then maybe they just sense danger.
  • Patron: The computer said the book I want is "Checked out." Does that mean it's checked out?
    Answer: No, that's just our way of deterring patrons who aren't pushy enough.
  • Patron: The museum pass I want is already reserved for the day I want to go - can you cancel that person and give it to me?
    Answer: Actually, you don't need the pass at all - just go to the museum and they'll let you in free if you tell them the secret code; it's "I need to plan ahead."
  • [patron on the phone]
    Patron: Can you speak up, why are you speaking so softly?
    Answer: Because I'm in a library.
  • Patron: Can I ask you a question?
    Answer: You mean, another one?
  • [patron brings in a broken playaway, and I offer to request one from another library or to show him where the book is on the shelf]
    Patron: You think I want to *read* this book?
    Answer: You're right, that might be asking too much.
  • Patron: I love Michael Savage - do you think he's got just the best website?
    Answer: No, in fact, his site is so bad that one of his fans set up a separate website just to make finding his information easier.
    [note: this is from awhile ago, and apparently thesavagearchive.com is no more. But read the little "About" box on the archived version of that site - it's a polite way of saying a site is annoyingly difficult]

Sigh, I hate speaking ill of people who come into the library and ask for help, but I'm sure we've all been there. The good news is that questions like the above are few and far between (but they'll never be few and far between enough).



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