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

Reference Question of the Week – 4/8

   April 14th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Charleston, SC mapWith all my travels these days, this reference questions is quite appropriate. A patron comes to the desk and says she is going to go to Wilmington, DE to Charleston, SC, and wants to get driving directions.

But what's more, she's planning this trip for later in the summer, and also wants to know what the weather will be like in June and July. And, she seems to fully intend on planning her trip around whatever long-range weather forecasts I can locate.

But so, first things first: driving directions. Despite my general mistrust of Google, I really do like Google Maps. I don't know how their directions compare (in accuracy, directness, etc.) to MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps (which now looks a lot like Google Maps), or even AAA TripTiks, but I prefer their interface. I like maps, and I like being able to type in the little notes field at the top of the page.

For weather forecasting, I needed to check a few resources. We keep the Old Farmers Almanac on our ready reference shelf, so I first grabbed that. As with most almanacs*, they forecast out what the year will be like in general terms on a regional basis.

This wasn't specific enough for her, so I then turned to the internet. I believe that NOAA has the most reliable weather data, but they only seem to forecast out seven days (they do have a few months worth of historical data, which I've used in the past).

Next I tried the Weather Channel's website. Being commercial, I think they try to pack in more features, but they had what the patron was looking for. In addition to the current forecast, they also have both a monthly planner and monthly averages.

In the case of this patron, the monthly averages were good enough, but we also looked at the daily averages to see if the beginning or end of the month was better. I did feel a need to remind her that these were averages and long-range forecasts, and hence not exactly something to plan a wedding around, but she seemed pretty satisfied.


* In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work for a division of the company that publishes the Farmers' Almanac, a rival of the Old Farmer's Almanac. I personally prefer the Farmers' Almanac, but there you go.


directions, driving directions, forecast, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, weather, weather forecast, weather forecasts

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,