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

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.

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