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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/15/12

   January 21st, 2012

Colored pencilsThis question was short and sweet, and in addition to making me laugh, left me a little confused. A patron walks up to the desk and asks:

Can you show me where the painting books are?

I asked her if she meant books on how to paint, books of paintings by famous artists, or books on painting your house, and she said the how-to books. So I took her to the 751's, and she said that was exactly what she was looking for and would browse for awhile.

I went back to the desk, and maybe five minutes later the patron came back up:

Patron: Those were okay, but not what I was looking for. Can you show me there the books are about painting with pencils?
Me: Oh sure, the drawing books are...
Patron: No, not drawing, I mean painting with colored pencils.

I had no idea what painting with colored pencils could possibly be besides drawing, so I just searched our catalog for colored pencils to see what came up. It wasn't much of a surprise that a lot of drawing books came up, so I took the patron to the 741.2's and actually found a book called Painting light with colored pencil. Again, she said that was exactly what she was looking for, and that she'd look around.

I went back to the desk a little puzzled, as I didn't know why there was a stigma on "drawing."

It must be a thing though, because a little while later the patron stopped by the desk again to thank me. When she did, I noticed she was carrying two more books: Masterful color : vibrant colored pencil paintings layer by layer and Drawing workbook : a complete course in ten lessons. But she left happy, so it was a good day.

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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 1/15/12”

  1. anonymous Says:

    It is a thing. They are special colored pencils that you dip in water, which softens the pencil lead into paint.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @anonymous: thanks – I had no idea. I’ll have to check those titles more closely when they’re returned, to see if they should be cataloged as painting or drawing.

  3. sharon Says:

    It’s not just the water-soluble pencils. Colored pencil as a medium has had this stigma for a long time, and frequently was not accepted into “art” shows. I think if you look at “Painting light with colored pencil,” if it’s this book,


    you’ll agree that it’s not just “drawing.”

  4. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    It’s true. I was completely stigmatized for my “Paintings of Curly Moustache and Spectacles nos. 1-113.” Mixed media, colored pencil and social studies textbook, 1998.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @sharon: no, I had no idea – my personal distinction was just anything done with paints was painting, and anything done with pencils was drawing (I have no classification for chalk or other media). This is interesting, so thank you for pointing it out – it also kind of reminds me of how many people look down on watercolor painting, even though it’s actually very difficult and powerful, and not just what school kids use.

    @TLWNN: I appreciate an artist who suffers for their work – I suffered at the hands of a few Nun-cum-art-critics myself.

  6. kapook Says:

    Elsewhere in this edition of Hetq there is an article entitled “Just Who Is An Armenian?”