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

Reference Question of the Week – 11/5

   November 11th, 2006

Slaughterhouse Five, or, The Children's Crusade bookcoverThis week’s question isn't funny, just interesting (to me, anyway). A little boy, who couldn’t have been any older that nine or ten, comes up to the desk (mind you, this is in the adult section, not the childrens room):

Boy: Do you have any books on the world war?
Me: I’m sure we do - which world war?
Boy: Do you have any books on Hitler?
Me: Sure, I’ll show you where those are.
[We walk to the YA biography section, but all those on Hitler are checked out. So I take him to the adult biography section, where we fine a couple on the shelf - even two thin books, which I was thankful for]
Me: These four books are about Hitler.
Boy: Why are there so many books written about Hitler?
Me: He was an important person who had a big effect on history.
Boy: But Hitler was bad, wasn’t he?
Me: Yes, he did a lot of bad things.
Boy: So why did they write books about him?
Me: People write books about important events in history, so we don’t forget what happened. That way, maybe the bad things won’t happen again.
[At this point, the boy had picked a book to check out, and we’re now walking back up towards the reference desk]
Boy: Is this book about Hitler’s whole life?
Me: Yes, I think so.
Boy: Even about how he died?
Me: Yes.
Boy: How did Hitler die?
Me: Well... [pause] ...he was the leader of an army, and his army was losing the war. He was surrounded by the good guys, and he decided that killing himself was better than being captured by his enemies.
Boy: Is Hitler dead now?
Me: Yeah, he is.
Boy: Okay, thanks.
[He turns around and walks us the steps to the circulation desk]

At the reference desk, I don’t often get to work with little kids. I think the book he chose, being thin and having some pictures, was okay for his reading level. However, I wonder if me telling him about suicide will scar him for life.

The interaction above is all a paraphrase, of course. And incidentally, I included the cover of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five because its subtitle is "The Children's Crusade."
childrens, Hitler, Library, Reference Question, WWII

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2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 11/5”

  1. Melody Says:

    I would like to tell you something. I found your blog when I did a search to justify to myself that I “broken up” with a potential boyfriend appropriately when he killed a cricket. Yes, his arrogance angered me. Now that I’ve found your blog I have to tell you that it’s a damn shame you live on the east coast, or I would come over and make you dinner.

  2. herzogbr Says:

    Thanks, Melody – that is too bad, because I like dinner. And if you ask me (“me” being someone who has absolutely no knowledge of, or insight into, your life at all), I fully agree with using murder and arrogance as reasons to discontinue a relationship. Humans are only at the top of the food chain because humans came up with the food chain. To quote Winston Churchill: “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”