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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/14/16

   February 20th, 2016

water pumpSometimes, what would have otherwise been an ordinary, simple question, gets asked with a slight twist and I just know it's going to be the question of the week.

Last Saturday, a college-age male patron walked up to the desk carrying an empty water bottle and asked,

Where is your Brita filtered filler station?

A coworker was with me at the desk at the time, and both of us kind of paused - long enough, apparently, that the patron then said,

Well, maybe you don't have one...

We get asked regularly where the bathrooms are, and only slightly less frequently if we have a drinking fountain*. We explained to him where the drinking fountain was, and he seemed happy enough for it.

I wonder if he actually expected a Brita-filtered tap, or free-standing water cooler. Maybe that's what they exclusively use in his house or college, to the point that he's just so used to saying "Brita filter" that it's the name he uses for any water dispensing device.

Regardless, it suddenly made me feel like a 19th-century library and the best we had to offer was an old farm water pump out back. I mean, I' very happy we still offer a typewriter to patrons, but I never thought our drinking fountain would become retro too.


*In New England, at least this part, they call drinking fountains "bubblers," which I think is funny. They also call pop "tonic."

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8 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/14/16”

  1. Theo Says:

    The latest thing in gyms (and who knows where else) is water bottle filling stations. Your young patron is probably used to the brand his gym or college uses!

    And I have to say, bubbler has never meant water fountain to me–and I grew up in CT and live in Western Mass!

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Theo: oh, I bet you’re right – I didn’t even make the connection with the water bottle. I always am very grateful when I see these in airports, but I don’t know I’ve seen them anywhere else – I just need to get out more. Thanks.

    And yes, I think “bubbler” is a highly regional word – like “jimmies” for ice cream sprinkles (I have no idea where this comes from) and “packie” for liquor store (short for package store).

  3. Cathy Bence Says:

    “What do you call the thing from which you might drink water in a school?” regional maps –

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Cathy: thanks Cathy, that is neat. The rest of the mapped words and phrases are really interesting too.

  5. Sarah Fetterman Says:

    Well, I’ve learned something! I’ve lived in southwest Pennsylvania my whole life and never realized “the thing from which you might drink water in a school” was called something other than a water fountain.

    Also, here in Pittsburgh, I’ve always known sprinkles to be small and round and jimmies to be long and cylindrical.

    sprinkles: http://cdn2.mommyish.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/shutterstock_59176348.jpg

    jimmies: http://icecreamiest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2885569_14841801_lz.jpg

    I’m fascinated by colloquialisms!

  6. M Says:

    My library system recently finished building a new branch, and we have one of these fancy filtered water bottle filler stations. I think the trend of public facilities (schools, airports, libraries, pools) having more of these types of amenities will continue. Our new library also has a bike repair station outside, complete with air pump and tools : )

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @M: those really are great amenities to offer the community. We might get to the level of needing filtered water bottle filler one day, but unfortunately we don’t get a lot of bike traffic. We do have an electric car charger though! Libraries really are mirrors of their communities.

  8. Emma Says:

    As a Michigan librarian, I have to say my first thought was that he’d been following the news about the Flint water crisis a little too closely.