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

Reference Question of the Week – 4/26/15

   May 2nd, 2015

US ConstitutionAn older gentleman came to the desk one afternoon and asked for a copy of the Constitution. Neat - I don't know that anyone has ever asked me for that.

Since he had a cane and came out of the elevator, I wasn't going to make him walk with me into the stacks, so I told him I'd be right back. I went to the 340s, figuring we'd have something there with the text of the Constitution in it - and that it would stand out on the shelf because I couldn't exactly remember the call number.

Sure enough, we had a Teen book (yay for interfiling adult and teen!) with the text as an appendix.

I took it back to the patron and showed him the text, and he didn't look at all pleased. I asked him if the text of the Constitution was what he was looking for, in case I had misunderstood him initially, but he said yes it was. Hmm.

It then occurred to me that when he asked if we had a copy of the Constitution, he may have thought we have an actual copy of it - either one of the big souvenir rolls like the Declaration of Independence from the movie National Treasure, or an actual original copy.

I didn't ask him this though, and after a second I think he realized that I was handing him a readable text of the Constitution, and he became okay with that. He thanked me and left, but I honestly can't help thinking this YA book was a pale imitation of what he might have expected.

After all, the Dallas Library has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, so why shouldn't we have the Constitution? Well, the people who know me will point to the food stains on my pants as to why I can't have nice things.

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5 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 4/26/15”

  1. JoshR Says:

    I’ve seen a few dictionaries that had the text of the Constitution in the back, and I know there are a couple of publishers who put out small books with the text (and sometimes annotations) for 5-10 bucks. I’ve got one on my shelf at home that I picked up at a used book store for $2.

    It’s not generally something I see people asking for outside of school assignments.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @JoshR: you’re right, when I started thinking about it (after the patron had left), I kept thinking of more places where there’s a copy of the Constitution. That strikes me as a fun librarian game – find all the places in your library that has the text of the Constitution (well, a librarian game anyway, if not a fun one). And funny, I have a slim volume of the text on my own bookshelf at home too. My dictionary, however, does not have the text in the back.

  3. Jenne Says:

    We hand out these for free at our library. They are pretty popular. https://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-pocket-constitution/

  4. Jenne Says:

    We are legally required to celebrate Constitution Day because we accept federal funding for our library. We have other activities but the booklet giveaway is by far the most popular.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jenne: those are neat, and would be handy. Although I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Constitution Day, but I like the sound of it.