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

Reference Question of the Week – 3/24/13

   March 30th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Pickleball action shotWhile sitting at the Reference Desk with a coworker one day, the phone rang - she answered it before I did, which is too bad because I would have loved to hear a patron ask this question:

Can you tell me where I can play pickleball in Chelmsford?

I think if there is anything bizarre in the world, eventually someone will ask about it at the library.

Neither of us had heard of pickleball, but apparently it is a thing. A quick web search turned up a surprisingly legitimate-looking and extensive USA Pickleball Association website. They have a "What is Pickleball?" page, but basically it seems to be a combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. Here's a very long demo video, with loud and crazy music:

Anyway, back to the question at hand. The USAPA website also had a "Places to Play" page, which allows you to limit by state. The Massachusetts list had a lot of places, some not too far away, but sadly none in Chelmsford yet. There is also a pickleball waiting list on Meetup.com, and pickleball made it into the Boston Globe.

Pickleball growth chartThis definitely seems like a regional sport, based on existing pickleball meetup groups and and the USAPA.org's regional links (bottom of the left navigation bar). It also seems to be growing fast, according to the USAPA's chart of places to play pickleball.

I think the patron was a little disappointed there wasn't a local group of players she could join, but good for her for being one of the early adopters in this area.

I'll be curious to see if this sport catches on here. It reminds me of cornhole, which I discovered in library school at Kent State. One day I had never heard of the game, and then suddenly the next day everyone was playing it.

Although, I also have to admit that new games like this always remind me of Guyball. Sadly, that doesn't seem to have caught on yet.

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Reference Question of the Week – 8/21/11

   August 27th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This isn't a real reference question, but it's kind of related and I thought people would be interested.

When I was reading The Atlantic article about people not knowing about Ctrl+F, the last paragraph mentioned Google's AGoogleADay.com campaign. I had never heard of this, but it's basically a Google game - here's how they describe it:

A Google A Day directions

The couple questions I've done have been fairly simple, and taken only minutes to answer (although one I had the right answer but Google kept telling me it was incorrect - it might be picky about the format you use to type in the answer).

I enjoy games and challenges like this (librarian!), but it's not like we need to go out of our way to find them. But something I liked about AGoogleADay was that, when it gives you the answer, it also tells you what Google thinks is the right way to find the answer. It's never matched my search strategy, but like they say, "there's no right way to solve it."

To prevent players finding the answer after someone else has posted the question, the game is powered by Deja Google - it's a "wormhole inspired time machine [that] searches the Internet as it existed before the game began ... Because nobody wants someone's recent blog post about finding an answer spoiling their fun." Good thinking.

Something else interesting was the link to Google Inside Search. I'd heard that Google retired Google Labs, and Inside Search seems to be, not exactly a replacement, but a new method for Google to introduce their new tools. My favorite part was the timeline at the bottom, that shows you exactly when different tools launched.

So if it's a slow day at the library, or you're a library student looking to hone your reference skills, give it a try.

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Library Game: Escape and Survive!

   February 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I'm pretty unsophisticated when it comes to video games, but I do occasionally play escape games when I'm looking for a way to occupy some time. I enjoy them because they require logic and problem solving, but are also just fun.

I saw one recently I thought I'd share: in "Library Labyrinth," you're locked in the library with a serial killer, and you need to find objects and solve puzzles to survive him and get out of the library. Good times, I know, but I also liked that winning this game involved using Twitter (in the game - you don't need an account yourself). Clever, and it also shows (again) how ubiquitous Twitter has become.

Give it a try, and if you get stuck, a helpful tips from previous players is also available.

Library Labyrinth game screenshot

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(Dreaming About) Appropriate Libraries Games

   January 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Library minigolfThis is bizarre: a little while ago I dreamed about telling an a adult patron he was being too loud in the library, because he was playing Marco Polo with his kids to entertain them. He yelled back, asking me what I expected him to do.

I went to the reference desk to review our games policy (this is a dream remember, so it made perfect sense at the time). It didn't mention specific games, so I sat down with my director and came up with a list of games that he could and couldn't play in the library:

Approved Games:
I Spy
Hide and Seek
Board Games
Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?
Thumb Wrestling
Unapproved Games:
Marco Polo
Red Rover
Red Light, Green light
Duck Duck Goose
King of the Mountain

I remembered the dream when I woke up, so quickly wrote down the games I could recall. How sad that I dream about things like this.

However, it also reminds me of Library Mini Golf, which I think is a great idea. I also still like the idea of having tournaments for any number of video games (which, oddly, didn't make my dream list).

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Gaming at the Library, Old School Style

   October 30th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Patrons playing on game tableLast month, my library added to our collection a nice new game table. It was donated in memory of a long-time patron who enjoyed board games.

It's a very nice table - all wood, "pub height," and the different game boards are self-contained in the table top. The included games are:

  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Scrabble
  • Backgammon
  • Monopoly

We set it up in the Teen area and are circulating game piece sets from the reference desk. We also did a "games" display near the desk to promote the table.

The problem is, no one has used it yet to play games. I see people sitting at it to study by the windows, but the five sets of game pieces have yet to be checked out. Something like this might take awhile to catch on, and we've been toying with the idea of starting a chess club.

But regardless, I like having it. It's a nice way to remember a patron we all miss, and it encourages people to use the library for more than just academic research - it's a place in the community people can come to relax and enjoy someone else's company.

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