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

Reference Question of the Week – 7/5/09

   July 11th, 2009

I didn't intend for this to be an all-kids week, but this exchange just made me laugh.

Yesterday, a little boy, maybe about 8 years old, walks up to the Reference Desk and plops a stack of books down - three books from the Warrior series, Eragon, and Haunted Waters, by Mary Pope Osborne. He slides Haunted Waters towards me and says flatly:

Patron: Is this book any good?
Me: I'm sorry, I don't know, I haven't read it. Hmm, have you read the description inside? [open the cover to the inside book flap]
Patron: No... hey, that's a good idea... [skims description for maybe five seconds] ...yes, this book looks very interesting.
Me: Oh, great. Have you read anything else by her?
Patron: Yeah, I read all the Magic Tree House books, and I like those. But, um, I found this book in the Young Adult section.
Me: Okay...
Patron: Well, the Young Adult section is for older kids. I mean, they're almost adults, that's why they're called "young adults." I mean, like, 13 to 16 are called "teenagers" and 15 to, no, 16 to 18 are called "young adults." This book seems like it's for younger kids, like the Magic Tree House books upstairs [in our Childrens room].
Me: She must have written this book for older kids. The cover doesn't look like a Magic Tree House cover.
Patron: No, but when you're a young adult, you're almost an adult, right? That's why it goes to 18, or maybe 20, or 21. That's when they give you more responsibility, like gambling. That's a young adult.
Me: Hmm, I think we must use the phrase "young adult" a little more loosely, to include any kids between 5th grade and adults.
Patron: 5th grade!?!
Me: Well, some younger kids want to read older books, so we try to include a lot of things in that section. The Magic Tree House books are for littler kids, and this one looks like it's for kids a little bit older.
Patron: But can I still check it out?
Me: Sure.
Patron: Good. I'm going to check out the rest of these, too, but I've already read them. I liked this one because...

And honestly, he went on from there for about ten minutes talking about the Magic Tree House, the Warriors and the Eragon series, what they were about, and why he liked them.

Somewhere in there he asked if I knew when the 4th Eragon book was coming out. We looked around the internet, but only found that no date has been set yet. He was very disappointed, because he said he's been looking forward to this book "for a year." And coming from an eight-year-old, that's a significant amount of time.

In the end I didn't feel I really helped him very much, but he cracked me up. One big drawback of working in a multi-floor library is that I don't get to interact enough with kids.

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2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 7/5/09”

  1. jpetroroy Says:

    Adorable! That’s one of the things I love about working in the Children’s Room. (I work in Dover, MA, but grew up in Chelmsford)

  2. Auntie Nanuuq Says:

    I read “childrens'” books often….i find them quiet enjoyable and not so bogged down with unnecessary descriptive narratives.