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

Reference Question of the Week – 12/31

   January 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

This one isn't exactly a reference question, but kind of:

At my library, the reference desk offers One-on-One Computer Workshops two evenings a week. The point of them is to supplement the more structured classes we offer, so a patron can come in and work with a librarian on whatever computer issue they need help with. Wednesdays are my nights, and this past Wednesday, a patron came in for his session:

Patron: Hello. I have never even turned on a computer before, so you're going to be starting from scratch with me. I'm recently retired, and since I have time on my hands, I thought I should learn this internet thing.
Me: Okay. You can use the internet for a lot of different things - what are you interested in doing?
Patron: I want to learn how to do day-trading with my stock portfolio.

At this point, I didn't exactly laugh, but it took me a minute or so before I could say anything. My response was something like:

Me: Huh. Well, day-trading is actually kind of an advanced thing, so how about we start with the basics. Do you know what a mouse is?
Patron: No.
Me: Okay then - this is a mouse...

...and we kind of went on from there. He picked up things very quickly, and should be ready for stock trading in maybe the second session. After that, I'm going to start him on mashups.

But really, I was shocked when he said that. I mean, it's great that, despite having never used a computer before, he sees it just as a tool to do something he wanted to do, rather than this great and mysterious thing to be feared.

Heck, I don't even know how to day-trade stocks, so where does it leave librarians when our "beginners" are more advanced then we are? Then again, this certainly isn't the first time I've helped someone find information on a topic I knew nothing about. Librarians don't need to know everything, they just know where to find it.

computer training, day trading, libraries, library, reference question

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