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

Reference Question of the Week – 4/22

   April 28th, 2007

This is only marginally a reference question, but I thought it was funny. And as with most things in my life, it requires a bit of a setup...

Our internet connection went down on a recent Friday at 5pm. On Saturday, since our Assistant Director in charge of computery stuff was on vacation for the week, I called comcast.

Eventually I spoke with a very nice tech support person. He had me check stuff and try things, none of which worked. He concluded the problem was on their end, and would send out a service guy. But, since the next day was Sunday, and the Monday was a holiday, it was unlikely the guy would get there before Tuesday.

Of course, we were open full regular hours Saturday and Sunday. Very disappointed patrons kept coming to the desk to ask what the problem was, and when it would be fixed. People even repeatedly called throughout each day, asking if "we had turned the internet back on yet."

But one patron stood out from the crowd. He's a high-functioning special needs guy who comes in pretty regularly. We don't require signups to use the public computers, but he always comes to the desk and asks permission anyway. When I told him Saturday that internet access was unavailable, he stood and thought for a moment.

He then asked where the computer books were, and I showed him. He looked at the shelf for awhile, selected one book, and then sat for about an hour reading it. Later he came up to the desk, looking kind of deflated, and holding the book out to me.

It was The Internet for Dummies, and he said "I thought maybe I could fix your internet, but this book doesn't tell me how."

I thanked him, and told him it was okay, because we had someone on their way. That made him felt better, and he said he come back in a couple days.

He was the only patron who didn't first think how their day was ruined because the library was keeping the internet from them. It took me be surprise because, as a librarian, I am continually asking what the library can do for the patron, and not what the patron can do for the library. This was a refreshing and unexpected reversal.

internet, internet access, internet down, libraries, library, public libraries, public library

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 4/22”

  1. Kate Says:

    That’s pretty cool! How thoughtful of him. 🙂

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    I know, it really was. But I’m kind of glad he didn’t find a way to fix anything. I always get tense when patrons take repair jobs into their own hands. One day I happened to see a patron elbow-deep in our only public printer. When he saw me, he said, with a smile on his face, “don’t worry, I do this all the time at home.” Ahhh. Not only is the library probably liable for any injury he may sustain (or cause to someone else), but we would probably have to foot the bill for a new printer if it broke. Not to mention being without a printer for the month or whatever it would take to get a new one. I know people are just trying to help, but technology support is really something I would rather see handled by library staff.