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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/16/11

   January 22nd, 2011

Alarm clockAs I was coming back to the desk after lunch one day, I saw one of our regular patrons walking away carrying an alarm clock. I asked my coworker what was going on, and she said:

[The patron] called and said he was always late for work because his alarm clock was going off at the wrong time, and wanted to know if we could help. I thought it might have been set for six o'clock PM instead of AM, but he didn't know how to check. Since it was battery operated, he just brought it in. It was set to PM, so I changed it to AM for him.

And there you go - talk about providing the services our patrons need.

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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 1/16/11”

  1. Anne Says:

    This brings up the issue of DEVICES, and to what level can we provide support?

    I’m sure you’re experiencing the onslaught of people with ereaders – it’s been non-stop for us since Christmas. People come in, expecting us to show them how to use the devices.

    That would be fine and good, if somebody bought one for me! I sure as hell don’t have one of my own, yet I have to help patrons who want to download ebooks from our site. Some of our admins have said we just show people how to get books from the website, that’s all! But they don’t spend time on the front lines…

    I’m not adverse to helping the patrons as much as possible, but especially where ebooks are concerned we need to be trained and ready!

  2. CarolK Says:

    This is a great story and excellent illustration of the type of requests and questions libraries receive on a daily basis. Yet again, superior customer service was provided.

    To address Anne’s question…it’s not always easy to balance how much help we should provide with devices, especially if there are not clear guidelines from directors or boards. At our library we have some leeway and will help if and when we can. When it gets beyond our expertise and time constraints, it’s time to let the patron know to seek help from another source.

  3. Nancy Hallowell Says:

    Can’t resist adding this note. Last week one of our branches functioned as a “funeral parlor” for a community drug education program called a Reality Tour. It was chosen because it shares a building with the local magistrate’s courtroom and holding cells and shares a parking lot with the local fire department. Here’s a link to our internal blog about the event – http://tinyurl.com/4e9y4lr

  4. Twitter Trackbacks for Swiss Army Librarian » Reference Question of the Week - 1/16/11 :: Brian Herzog [swissarmylibrarian.net] on Topsy.com Says:

    […] Swiss Army Librarian » Reference Question of the Week – 1/16/11 :: Brian Herzog swissarmylibrarian.net/2011/01/22/reference-question-of-the-week-11611 – view page – cached Swiss Army Librarian is a blog by Brian Herzog mostly about library and technology issues relating to public libraries […]

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Anne & @CarolK: Good points – and that’s what I was thinking in posting this particular question. I think my library’s policy is pretty hands-off when it comes to providing support for patrons’ equipment, but I don’t know anymore if that’s right. Many people now possess technology that can’t even begin to understand – at least, not without someone’s help. I’m hoping to start a trend towards librarians providing direct support on patrons’ equipment – but of course, this is necessarily limited to library staff who know what they’re doing.

    @Nancy: That is just so bizarre it’s brilliant. Great that the library could be involved.

  6. Erin Says:

    Another goodie. But like your first commenter, Anne said, brings up the issue of devices, and should we be touching them weather they are simple like an alarm clock or complex like an eReader or personal laptop. We are hands off on patrons devices here as well. But like you, wish we could use the technology more to be able to assist, but such liability when it comes down to it. I think at least.