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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/12/08

   October 18th, 2008

Bank tellersLibrarians are always on duty.

Every once in awhile, I'll get recognized when I'm out around town as "the guy from the library." But since I see so many patrons at the library, I hardly ever recognize their faces when I'm out in the real world.

Usually, people just say hi or thank me for whatever I helped them with, but this time I was asked a real library question (talk about roving reference).

I was at bank during lunch, filling out some forms at the counter with a teller. When my transaction was completed, the teller paused a moment and then asked me if I worked at the library.

She said a club she is in held a meeting there, and the meeting room worked perfectly for them. So much so that she wanted to schedule meetings at the library for a different group she's in, and asked me what our meeting room policy was (of course, she didn't say "meeting room policy" - only librarians say that).

I told her about the rooms we have, how to schedule a room, and took her business card with me when I left. I told her I'd check our meeting room availability calendar when I got back to the library, and call her later that day. I did, we found an open time that worked for her group, and she was extremely happy that I happened to come into the bank that day.

You never know when simple coincidences will work out like that - I guess you just have to be open to them.

However, had this happened about a month from now, I could have helped her right there in the bank. My library is in the process of getting an online meeting room booking system up and running, and we've almost got the bugs worked out (I'll post more about this when it's ready). If we were already on that system, instead of still using paper calendar books, she and I could have checked room availability online from her work computer, and then made her reservation before I even left the bank.

Not that I encourage librarians to walk around town getting people to do personal business while they're at work, of course. But I do think the more library services people can access remotely, the easier it is for patrons to use them, and the library.

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2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 10/12/08”

  1. Winnie Says:

    As a small town librarian (we serve 4,000 people), getting recognised is a fact of life. Just as everyone recognises the volunteer firemen, the police, the lady from the post office, and the terrifying lady who taught you grade four and is now at the door raising money for something. A few years ago one of my collegues came in and annouced she was taking the following week off – would I take some of her shifts? Since she has an elderly mum who lives a 23 hour drive from here I thought the worse. But that was not the case. She had been walking along the mainstreet and realised that as she passed people she was mentally reciting their patron card numbers.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Winnie: Ha; you’re right, we are more public that I realize. At my first library job, a colleague (who lived in a town about 30 minutes from the library) stopped in our local grocery store one day after work. She was fixing dinner for her visiting parents, and needed a few things, including a bottle of wine, for dinner that night. The next day at the library, a concerned patron (who must have seen her in the grocery store) came in to warn us of our coworker’s “obvious drinking problem.” Well meaning, of course, but kind of creepy, too. How much privacy should public employees expect?