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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/17/16

   January 23rd, 2016

LANGUIGE CROSSWORDAfter I published the post on Wednesday about the likelihood of this blog changing due to my new position, I forgot to mention that until we hire a new Head of Reference (which will probably take a few weeks), I'm keeping my normal desk schedule - and so should be able to keep up with Reference Questions of the Week.

Wednesday is my 1-9pm shift, and I published that post from home that morning. I decided that when I got to work that day, the very first reference question I got would be this week's post. Usually I just take notes whenever something comes up that is interesting or funny, but I thought a random "slice of reference life" might be appropriate this week.

So, here it is: I sat down at the desk and the phone rings...

Me: Chelmsford Library, can I help you?
Patron: Can you tell me how to spell "language?"
Me: Oh sure, it's-
Patron: Does it have an "i" in it?
Me: No, it's spelled l-a-n-g-u-a-
Patron: Is it u-i-g-e?
Me: ... [waiting to make sure the patron has finished talking] It's l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e.
Patron: Oh, so an "a" and not an "i?"
Me: Yes, l-a-n-g-u-a-g-e.
Patron: Okay, thank you.
Me: You're welcome, good-bye.

This is one of our regular phone patrons, and most of her calls are like this. We suspect she works crossword puzzles.

Not every reference interaction is funny or interesting, but it's true that any of them can be.

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2 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 1/17/16”

  1. Emma Says:

    Anyone keeping a public library blog is bound to overemphasize the most out-there questions and underemphasize the more common ones. It’s nice to have some of both on display for people who don’t currently work a desk and might be thinking about it. (You have to think about training the next generation now that you’re the Swiss Army Assistant Director! Congratulations!)

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emma: you’re right, and that was one reason why I so enjoyed participating in Bobbi Newman’s Librarian Day in the Life project. When you just document a random day like that, you can get a very real and usually interesting look at what goes on. I’m a little worried that Assistant Director Day in the Life will be more like,

    9:00 am: sitting at my desk
    10:00 am: sitting at my desk
    11:00 am: answered the phone, kept sitting at my desk

    I know that’s an exaggeration, and I have no real expectation that it’ll be anything but just as busy as now, but “an office in the back” seem so different than spending most of my time at the Reference Desk.