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

Reference Question of the Week – 5/24/09

   May 30th, 2009

laurence maroneyIt was mentioned on here recently that sometimes, patrons aren't asking a question as much as they're seeking evidence to support their opinion. Here's good example, from a recent phone call:

Me: Reference Desk, can I help you?
Patron: Does Laurence Maroney have tribal tattoos on his arms?
Me: You know, I'm not really sure...*
Patron: He's my favorite player on the Patriots**, and I think I saw him in a bar last night. The guy I saw had tribal tattoos like around both elbows, and I'm sure it was him. Does he have tattoos like that?

I searched Google Images for Laurence Maroney, and looked for pictures in which his arms were exposed. The photos I found were either obscured or clearly didn't show tattoos, and I tried to describe what I was seeing to the patron.

I think the patron really wanted the guy he saw to be Laurence Maroney, and without concrete proof, inconclusive is the next best thing. I'd say something like, "in these two pictures, I can clearly see his left arm, and I don't see any tattoos," and the patron would respond with, "well, maybe I only saw it around his right arm, then."

This went on for awhile. I searched the general internet too, but still found no references to him having tattoos. In the end, it seemed unlikely to me that this is who the patron saw, but I saw no reason to tell him that. I gave him the information I could find, and he interpreted it his way. Which, in this case, I think was fine.


*At this point, I had no idea who Laurence Maroney was. I find that some patrons lose confidence in your research skills if you admit you don't know something, so I usually say something noncommittal and let them talk, as eventually they provide enough information to refine my search.

**See? It works.

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One Response to “Reference Question of the Week – 5/24/09”

  1. Cara Says:

    I really enjoy reading your Reference Question of the Week posts! Keep up the great work! 😀