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

Reference Question of the Week – 7/13/08

   July 19th, 2008

Pizza for TwoI got these two reference questions within an hour of each other - they can be filed under "All Patrons are Local" (or "Yogi Berra sayings").

First, an older couple walked up to the desk and the husband said:

Patron: We're just in town from Florida for a funeral, and don't know our way around. Can you suggest a good pizza place for lunch?

I am a big fan of pizza, so this is a question I can answer with some personal expertise. There are four pizza shops within walking distance of the library, so between the yellow pages and a local map have at the desk for patrons, they were on their way in just a couple minutes.

A little while later, the phone rings:

Different Patron: Hi, I'm one of your local patrons, and am in Florida for vacation. We don't know our way around and don't have a map, but we're looking for this particular pizza place. Can you look it up on the internet and give me directions?

Finding the pizza shop wasn't hard, and me giving her directions from where they were was a bit tricky, but we worked it out.

Before we hung up, I asked out of curiosity why her solution to this problem was to call her library in Massachusetts. She said it was because she had our phone number in her cell phone, and since we had access to the internet (and Google Maps), she felt my answer would be more reliable and safer than asking for directions from a stranger or at a gas station.

I thought that was nice, and something I hadn't though of before. Maybe libraries should encourage patrons to add us to their cell phone contact list, to make it easier for them to call us when they need to know something. Or maybe we should all install pizza ovens.

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 7/13/08”

  1. Stephanie Willen Brown Says:

    love the remote phone call for help from Florida! Portability of library help is an interesting issue. I am an academic librarian, and I give out my IM screen name in classes. I also tell them to add me to their buddy list, so if they have a question in the future, not related to this assignment or even this class, they can get in touch with me. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I do get an IM from someone one or two semesters back.

    Curious to hear how you’d promote this in a public library – but cell phones are a great place to start!

  2. laura k Says:

    Oh man, I love the crazy coincidence! Even that they were both looking for pizza. How often do things like this happen, anyway?

    The applicable lesson for libraries is also quite interesting. 🙂

  3. Destinee Says:

    The head librarian at my library called me once while I was on the reference desk to ask where the nearest liquor store was (he was driving in unfamiliar neighborhood). I didn’t even have to look anything up to tell him, which at first made me proud, and then, after I thought about it for a second, made me embarassed.

  4. Swiss Army Librarian » Reference Question of the Week – 2/24/13 :: Brian Herzog Says:

    […] Question of the Week – 2/24/13    March 2nd, 2013 This sort of happened once before, and I think it's awesome – although it probably wasn't very awesome to […]