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

Reference Question of the Week – 7/10/11

   July 16th, 2011

NO Stairway to Heaven signThis question made me laugh - partly because it is so odd, and partly because it's not the first request like this that we've had.

We received the following email from a patron with a Subject of "Request for a room" (I edited it a little for clarity):

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Request for a room

I would like to do some recordings with my guitar and voice (moderate volume) using a hand held recorder. I am currently working on a set of folk songs. Is there a isolated room in the Chelmsford Library where I could record during my weekday lunch hour?

One of my coworkers had a good response:

"isolated room" and public library - not a good combo.

We don't have anything in the library that is even close to being sound-proof enough so that his guitar playing wouldn't be heard by other patrons. Which may or may not actually bother people, but I would feel bad telling him yes, then having someone complain after he got all set up and going and then making him stop.

So the staff came up with a list of alternative potential places around town that might be able to handle this, including the local community center, performing arts center, and even the local cable television station (which at least has actual studios).

We sent a message back saying the library couldn't accommodate his request, and referring him to the list of other places we came up with. I haven't heard back if he found somewhere to go, but it would seem to lend some folk-cred if you record your album in a public library.

I do always feel bad when we reach a limit on how we can accommodate people, but at the same time it makes me happy that people continue to think of the library for just about anything.

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8 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 7/10/11”

  1. D Says:

    We had a customer with a service dog (a toy chihuahua) ask if she could use one of the library’s meeting rooms to mate her dog.


    Our answer was no, worded politely of course.

  2. Adam Steele Says:

    Hey, at least they ask you first. Many times when the weather outside is not so nice, our local campus drum/flute/guitar circle likes to meet in the stairwell of the library. Usually around 10pm at night.

    Someone usually comes down with a really puzzled look on their face to tell us, “Umm, there’s, like, a band playing in the stairs below the the 7th floor…?”


  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @D: That is great – we’ve had people bring in their pets and claim they were service animals, but no one has asked about mating them. Ha.

    @Adam: That’s new – I remember people running the stairs for exercise. I’m kind of impressed they go so many floors up, too.

  4. Cari Says:

    I’ve gotten that one too! We have had recording programs at the library, so I guess it’s not too far off. The weirdest one I’ve ever heard (not at my library) was a customer wanting to have a wake in one of their meeting rooms.

  5. Mary Jo Says:

    The Palmerston North Library (New Zealand) has a Beatbooth that members can rent for $5/hour – http://citylibrary.pncc.govt.nz/beatbooth.html#Recording%20Studio

  6. Peggy O'Kane Says:

    Portland (Maine) Public Library has a teen program for recording music. http://justinthelibrarian.wordpress.com/

  7. Allison Says:

    It is that fine line of which client do I keep happy…a whole room full or just the one. While we want to keep everyone happy sometimes it is not possible or we seek other options. I enjoy reading your reference questions.

  8. M Wms Says:

    It’s not such an odd combo. You just need either a soundproofed room or an auditorium that’s not in use and far enough from the quiet sections. A quick Google search finds a number of public libraries with music practice rooms, esp. in Canada ?: Toronto PL at North York, Parliament Library, and Parkdale Library; Hamilton PL (also Ontario); Dallas PL; Seattle PL; London PL; State Library of Queensland; Minneapolis Central Library, Greensboro PL (NC), etc.