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

Reference Question of the Week – 4/10/16

   April 16th, 2016

gonefishingsignAs Assistant Director, I'm definitely spending less time at a public desk than I expected. As such, far more of my patron interactions are actually either referrals of difficult patrons from the front-line staff, or else just stories heard second-hand. The latter is today's question.

We're doing some construction next door to my library, which means staff temporarily needs to park across the street. It's a longer walk, which is fine, but it also means we park in the lot of a strip mall that houses restaurants, a gym, drug store, bank, etc.

As I was crossing from that lot to the library one day, coming the other direction was a coworker from the reference desk who was leaving for lunch with her friend. They were going to the restaurant in the strip mall across from the library, since it was so close.

Later that day I asked her how her lunch was, and learned that the restaurant was closed - but only temporarily. Apparently there was a sign on the door saying the owners were on vacation, and they'd closed the restaurant for a week while they were gone.

She was annoyed by this and shocked that any business owner would do such a thing, but I think it's kind of cool that small businesses like this still exist, and only operate when the people who run them are available.

My coworker ended her lunch story by telling me to wait a week before I went there. However, this a Japanese restaurant and thus not on my "wheel of lunch," so I didn't think her news would be useful to me.

But then, two days later, that same coworker told me this:

Brian, you're never going to believe the call I just got. The patron said,

Hi, this might be a crazy question, but I called Town Hall and they referred me to you. Do you know if that Japanese restaurant across the street from the library is open?

Ha. She and I might have been the only people in the library able to answer that question. You never know what information will be helpful to you as a reference librarian.

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6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 4/10/16”

  1. Amelia Rodriguez Says:

    There is a pizza place I love and they close for 2 weeks every summer for vacation. They’ve been doing it for two generations and I love that they do it.

  2. Chris Says:

    There’s a muffler shop down the street that regularly puts a “gone fishing” in the window. Cracks me up.

  3. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    I love it when that happens! It helps to improve the perception of librarians as nigh-mystic know-it-alls.

    On a related note, there should be a word for when a librarian gets asked a reference question shortly after reading a book on the same subject, so that they instantly come back with a spookily thorough answer.

  4. M Says:

    @The Librarian With No Name
    Maybe something related to the Frequency Illusion, or Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Amelia: that sounds like my kind of pizza place – that’s awesome.

    @Chris: I would expect nothing less from your area. You need to open a store of some kind just so you can hang a sign on it that reads, “gone to play Booksie Ball.”

    @The Librarian: you’re right – I hadn’t thought of the perception angle, but it does always blow someone away when that happens. @M’s idea is close (unless you don’t believe in coincidences), but it’s kind of like the serendipity of tapping into the zeitgeist at the right moment. We need something with pizzazz because it really does impress patrons. Maybe serendgeist? Zeitipity? Hmm.

  6. Ex-librarian Says:

    That’s so true. Being a reference librarian is a great challenge for your brains. Knowledge of all aspects is crucial here. The “Gone fishing” thing is hilarious for me:) I’ve just seen such a note on the shop near my home:)
    Warm hugs,
    Samantha (ex-librarian – sad, but true – now writing about libraries)