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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/28/10

   March 6th, 2010

catapultI only got involved with this towards the end, but in plenty of time for the punch line. A woman called in to reserve a meeting room for later that day, and during the process, apparently she asked:

Can the ceilings of any of your meeting rooms be raised?

I didn't hear about this until the next day, but it should have been a tip-off that trouble lay ahead. However, she was told there was an available room, and she would need to fill out our online reservation form to reserve it.

That night the woman came in with her group, which is when I got involved. It turns out she never did actually reserve a room, but just showed up expecting one. All our rooms were in use by then, so after much scrambling around trying to find an available space, I ended up dividing our large meeting room with the movable wall - then I went back downstairs to the Reference Desk feeling satisfied about accommodating a patron's request.

About ten minutes later, the Children's Librarian came down to see me. Our Children's Room is right next to the meeting room, so she can often hear what's going on in there, even at moderate noise levels. I thought she was going to commiserate about our online room booking system or not having enough meeting space to meet community demand, but instead she asked:

Did you tell that group they could use a catapult?

Ha. Apparently, this group was a school group, and for a science project they built and are experimenting with a catapult. It wasn't quiet as large as the one in the picture, but still it was too big, too loud, and too dangerous for us to let them use it in the library. I'm actually a little bit in awe of them for apparently thinking it would be perfectly okay.

Now, you know I like medieval siege weapons, but perhaps this is a good rule of thumb: if the library's ceiling is too low to do something, then that is something you cannot do in the library.

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/28/10”

  1. Elin Says:

    I couldn’t love that more. I book our meeting rooms and just shared that post with my department and it brightened our day. Thanks for the laugh!

  2. lesbrarian Says:

    If you like medieval siege weapons, you need to go read the Engineer Trilogy, by K.J. Parker, starting with Devices and Desires.

    This is not so much of a recommendation as a mandate. I am seriously breaking readers’ advisor protocol by not inquiring as to what you actually like to read, but the trilogy is good enough that standard practices can be discarded.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Elin: I’m always happy to commiserate – people who don’t book meeting rooms are missing out on some good times.

    @lesbrarian: Thanks for the mandate – I’d actually never heard of the trilogy, and so just requested our copy.