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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/21/12

   October 27th, 2012

You know serendipity can be a subtle but major influence on how people find things in libraries? Here's a situation where serendipity backfired.

A patron came up to the desk and asked if we had any books on how family members can cope with someone who has a drug and alcohol addiction. I brought her to a catalog workstation and did a simple book search for "alcohol addiction" - the second result was:

MVLC result for "I hope they serve beer in hell" by Max tucker


The patron didn't comment on it, and I quickly pressed on to find useful resources for her. I have no idea what her situation was, but still, I felt like an ass. Oh well.

Tags: , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 10/21/12”

  1. sharon Says:

    But that’s not you. That’s a huge failure of our ILSs. Still. Yet. I enter the eact same search term into Teh Google, and it knows exactly what I mean.

  2. sharon Says:


  3. Chris Skaryd Says:

    To be fair, that book is perfectly described by your search terms. But certainly not what your patron was looking for.

  4. Kelly Says:


    An outside-the-library resource for this patron or others with similar questions would be open NA/AA meetings, which welcome and support family members of people with addictions. A lot of people think that the meetings are just for those who personally have substance abuse issues, but they support loved ones, as well.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @sharon: true – happily, I was recently reading about development work being done to Evergreen’s search relevancy rankings. Of course that will only benefit Evergreen libraries, but I suppose a step in the right direction.

    @Chris: also true – along with plenty of other things too. Without setting up an elaborate search beforehand (-humor and whatever else) I don’t know how to eliminate them

    @Kelly: thanks – I didn’t suggest AA specifically, but we do have a database of local support groups I showed her. Hopefully multiple avenues will meet her need.