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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/23/11

   January 29th, 2011

Giant Squid fighting Sperm WhaleThis week's question is yet another one in which I wasn't involved: my library is a funny place all around.

The Children's librarian told me about a young boy she helped in the Childrens Room. He came up to her, all excited, and asked for help looking for information on sperm whales.

No problem, she thought. Animals and endangered species are big topics will school kids in Chelmsford, so we do have a lot of resources for questions like this. And before too long, she was able to find some sperm whale books for him.

The boy was happy, but not satisfied - next, he asked her for books about the "giant colossal squid." That request gave her pause, but every year we all get asked for information on an endangered species that we've never heard of before, so she started looking.

She checked the catalog and subscription databases, and had no luck. Next she went to the animal books and started searching through the indexes of anything that looked remotely promising, but again just could not find anything.

This is the way it continued, with my coworker expanding and expanding her search, trying to locate even a mention of the "giant colossal squid." But no matter what she tried, she couldn't find a thing.

Just then, the boy's mother walked up. After my coworker related to her what she was looking for and how it was going (not well), the mother replied,

Oh, don't worry - he only learned about it in a movie he watched last night. The "giant colossal squid" isn't actually a real animal.

This is why I love librarians - who else would work this hard just because a child was curious about something? Actually, now I'm kind of curious which movie it was this patron watched. Hmm.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 1/23/11”

  1. Andromeda Says:

    But there is such a thing as a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_squid and a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Squid .

  2. Amy L. Campbell Says:

    This is not quite true. There is such a thing as the giant squid (Architeuthis) and the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). Not much is known about them since they appear rarely, but the boy would have been overjoyed to get this information and a book for his age group was published pretty recently called Here There Be Monsters: the Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid. There may be other works, but I don’t know if they are age appropriate.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Andromeda & @Amy: thanks to both of you. Another person (thank you Jim) sent me a link to http://squid.tepapa.govt.nz, the Colossal Squid exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand, which differentiates between the giant squid, colossal squid, and octopus.

  4. Denise Says:

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea would be the movie I would guess, but there are giant squid in The Sphere, The Beast, and even in Rugrats Go Wild.

  5. Andromeda Says:

    I love the mere fact that the URL “http://squid.tepapa.govt.nz” exists. Is there an official US .gov squid URL? I want there to be.

  6. Erin Says:

    That is too funny! I too am curious as to what movie he saw it in as well! It’s true though, what other profession would you bend over backwards for information – and enjoy it to boot ya know! Ah the curiosity of a child 🙂

  7. george Says:

    I see that people have already said that there are such things as these …squid..and I just wanted to add that I first heard of them when I was a young un’ and I was browsing through the non-fiction section of my local library and I discovered this book, I believe was called ‘Monsters of the Deep’…it sufficiently terrified me enough that I am still afraid of the ocean…or Lake Michigan (sturgeon are creepy!). Thanks for posting this! Highly entertaining 🙂

  8. Andy Says:

    Meet “Molly the Mollusk” a 27-foot-long preserved giant squid http://www.mote.org/index.php?submenu=Exhibits&src=gendocs&ref=Aquarium%20Exhibits,%20Mollusk%20Hall&category=Aquarium.

  9. EdT. Says:

    HI! I’m the photographer who took the photo used in this post (not to worry, it’s OK – I licensed it under Creative Commons, and am not coming to gripe or anything.) I also suspect you saw a picture similar to this in “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”, as well as “Moby Dick” – unfortunately I can’t recall a book from my school days with a picture of the squid vs. whale (though like you I could *swear* I saw one somewhere.)

    I suspect it will be difficult to figure out exactly which movie he was referring to, as the Giant Squid has been featured (in various forms) in several fiction works, as well as numerous cable TV shows over the past few years.


  10. Brian Herzog Says:

    @EdT: Thank you for licensing your work so others can use it – I’m always happy to do the same thing. Next time I’m at my parents’ house I’m going to dig around for that book – I think it was in some kind of series, but this one was “real monsters” or something like that. The picture from the book was basically the same composition, but much darker (because they’re deep in the ocean, I guess). If I find it, I’ll post it.