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

Reference Question of the Week – 8/2/15

   August 8th, 2015

Hours spelled out in phone numbersPatron interactions like this are one of my favorite parts of my job.

On Wednesday this week, late in the afternoon, the phone rang. It was just a patron calling to ask what time we closed that night, so I told him, and hung up. No problem.

Then, not two minutes later the phone rang again. When I answered it, the patron asked,

Hello, do you recognize my voice?

Of course it was the same patron who just called minutes before. I said I did, and he continued,

Well, I've already forgotten what time the library closes tonight. Can you tell me again. [I tell him 9:00 pm.] Okay thanks. I'll try to remember this time, but don't be surprised if I call back. You know, you should put your closing time in your phone number, because I have that memorized but I can't remember your hours.

It must have stuck with him this time, because he never did call back. However, what a neat idea - our phone number could be 978-930-2100 because we're open 9:30 - 9:00 (and 24 hour time for 9:00 pm is 2100). Of course, we'd need a different phone number for Fridays/Saturdays, and Sundays, so I guess that idea breaks down quickly.

Still though, it's fun when patrons are creative.

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 8/2/15”

  1. mmbb Says:

    Oh, and make sure everyone on the phones has a crib sheet to explain 24h time. My suspicion is that only military, astronomers, and Europeans know 24h time format.

    Would it pass the grandma test is a question I always ask of my crazy ideas. 😉

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @mmbb: the obvious solution here seems to be to have a phone menu system with a “press 1 for hours” option – except we have that, and for some reason people still make it all the way through to a staff person.

    I like your grandma test – it reminds me of the “mom test” I had when I was a park ranger in Maine. The park rule was that all dogs needed to be on a leash, but of course it’s much more fun to have dogs off-leash. However, my mom isn’t entirely comfortable around dogs, so my rule of thumb was that if I thought the off-leash dog would make my mom uncomfortable, I’d say something to them.

  3. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    We switched over to being open on Sunday about three years ago, and I’m positive that less than half our regulars know that we’re open on Sunday.

    This usually comes up when someone wants to speak to a manager about the 50 cent fine they accrued because they returned their books on Monday even though they were due on Sunday.

    I am reminded of your idea to post job openings on library signage just to whittle down the applicant pool to the rare type who reads signs in libraries.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Librarian: totally. We’re only open Sundays Labor Day weekend through Memorial Day weekend, and it usually takes people until Memorial Day to get that we’re open on Sundays. And on Summer Sundays, there will be people waiting by the front door.

    The fine thing is extra tough though – I am so thankful my library does not charge overdue fine.