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


Reference Question of the Week – 1/27/13

   February 2nd, 2013 Brian Herzog

Newspaper crossword puzzleA patron came up to me at the desk and asked,

I'm looking for information on writing and books about getting published. - you know, like Writer's Market, but modern.

That puzzled me for a second, since Writer's Market is updated every year. I walked with her down to the 808 section and showed her our 2013 edition of Writer's Market*, and some other books on the shelve. She said thank you, and then followed it up with,

I want to publish crossword puzzles - do you have any books on that?

Huh. I didn't remember ever seeing any books specifically about publishing crosswords. We skimmed the shelves and nothing obviously stood out, so I left her there to look through what we did have and I went back to the desk to search the catalog. Nothing came up, so I tried searched online.

One of the first results I came across was an Ask MetaFiler post titled Crossword Publishing help. It had only two responses to the original post, but both seemed (to me) to be very helpful. I didn't really find much else online, so I quickly reviewed the website cruciverb.com which one of the responses recommended. It seemed to be exactly what the patron wanted - it listed publications that publish crosswords, contact information and other details for submitting puzzles, and lots of other resources (including a listserv, forum, and social networking) for creating and publishing crossword puzzles. How perfect is that?

However, when I went back to the 800's to find the patron, she had left. I looked around, and even ran up to the Circulation Desk to see if I could catch her on her way out. I hadn't been searching at the reference desk very long, but she was nowhere to be found. I hate it when patrons slip away like that.

I was curious though, so I went back to the 808's to looked at the shelf. From the empty spaces between books (that weren't there before), I could tell that she had taken the 2013 Writer's Market and also a couple other books. That's good, and hopefully she found what she's looking for.

This question really intrigued me for some reason. I had seen (and really enjoyed) Wordplay, but never thought much about that actual process of publishing crosswords. Oh well - I think I'll stick to word finds.

Link to library word finds.

 


As with most of our most recent editions of traditional reference titles, our 2013edition of Writer's Market is a 7 Day Loan item, instead of in-library reference only. Even though it's been almost two years since we eliminated our "reference" collection, it still makes me happy every time a patron is able to take home and really use something they previously wouldn't have been able to check out.



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Reference Question of the Week – 4/22/12

   April 28th, 2012 Brian Herzog

W.E.B. Griffin's "Under Fire" coverA friend of mine from library school, who now works in a library in Northeastern Ohio, told me about an interesting reference transaction that is worth sharing here:

On a recent Monday, a customer approached me with a stack of paperbacks from another library. We don’t carry many, preferring to stock our fiction shelves with hardcovers and replacing with paperbacks only when necessary, so I assumed he wanted to order some more. Instead, he said, “I don’t think W.E.B. Griffin really wrote these books. I would like to know who did.”

The question took me by surprise. “I’ve read all of his books,” the customer insisted, “and these aren’t like his other ones. I want you to let everyone know that he didn’t write them. Including this other library that I got them from.”

My friend knew, which I did not, that Griffin was currently writing his books with a co-author (his son, William E. Butterworth IV). The titles in question were from Griffin’s early writing career though, so she searched Fantastic Fiction and NoveList but could find no evidence that Griffin hadn't written the books himself.

Her mind went to the same place mine did: James Frey, The Last Train from Hiroshima, and the many other book hoaxes and fake memoirs that have been identified.

My friend is a writer, and she explained to the patron that the difference could be attributed to the author’s age, his style changing over time, and the influence of his son’s writing style. I thought this too, and it reminded me of an NPR story of someone applying textual analysis to Agatha Christie's books. They found that, although never acknowledged in real life, the vocabulary and writing style of her last book seems to indicate that she was suffering from Alzheimer's when she wrote it.

The patron seemed satisfied with her explanation, although he still wanted my friend to “let the other libraries know” - she felt a responsibility to the patron to do so, but just wasn't sure how.

We have had this same discussion in my library, most recently with The Last Train from Hiroshima. We discussed putting a note in the catalog record, a label on the book itself, or shelving it in fiction, but ultimately just sent it back to the publisher. In a cut-and-dry case such as that, I think it'd be okay. But in this case, with just a single patron's suspicions, I don't think there can possibly be any library responsibility here.

Finding out a non-fiction book is false is one thing - just one person suspecting an author of a fiction book didn't actually write is entirely different. My friend went on to say that if the patron had kept pushing, she would have found contact information for the author and publisher, so the patron could contact them directly. I agree - I don't think we can investigate claims like this, but we certainly can handle them once they've been proven. In this particular case, I think my friend did the right thing - made the patron happy.



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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

   February 2nd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Wow, and then there's this video - try to carve 15 minutes out of your day to watch and enjoy:

[video link]

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by Moonbot Studios

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

The only criticism I could make is this: scotch tape?!?!

Thanks for sharing @echoyouback.



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Reference Question of the Week – 2/1/09

   February 7th, 2009 Brian Herzog

pen speed testI consider myself a creative person, but I could never had made this up.

A patron comes to the desk and asks to borrow a pen. She takes one from our little cup and goes back to her table. A few minutes later, she's back at the reference desk:

Patron: Do you have a faster pen?
Me: [utterly speechless stunned silence]
Patron: I need to take a lot of fast notes, and that first pen wasn't writing fast enough.
Me: Oh... well... I don't know. You can try the rest in the cup, if you like.

She did, and left the paper and rejected pens sitting like the picture shows. I did the same thing, but all of the pens seemed to more or less meet my speed requirement. I must just have lower standards.



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