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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/19/12

   February 25th, 2012 Brian Herzog

45s Card Game Rule BookThis was sort of a bizarre question, but the way I got to answer it made me pretty happy.

A patron walked up to the desk and said,

Someone told me the rules for forty-fives is available on DVD - can you show me where it is?

I had no idea what this meant. I was thinking 45 records, maybe the size and rpm that made 45's different from other records? That was flimsy though, so I just asked him what "forty-fives" was. I was surprised at the answer:

It's a regional card game, kind of like Hearts and Whist. Its complicated to learn, and I'm looking for the Merrimack Valley rules.


[note: my library is part of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium, so this is definitely local]

I searched our catalog for both 45 and forty-five for DVD and then everything, but didn't find anything like what he was talking about. Then I searched Amazon to try to find what the right title of this item might be, but couldn't find anything out there either.

So next I just tried a web search for 45 card game and came up with all kinds of stuff (including, of course, a Wikipedia article). Eventually we ended up at http://www.the45scardgame.com, which listed the rules online, but also linked to sites to play online, buy the game on CD, or buy a printed book of rules.

The patron was happy to see that, because he could learn the rules this way (and from a number of the other sites we found as well). He also thought his friend might have been talking about the game on a CD-ROM, and not on DVD after all.

But I couldn't resist ordering a copy of the rules book too - it's just too local and too unusual not to have in the library. I love it when the library can add something to our collection that a patron may no have purchased for themselves - not only do they get access to it then, but so does everyone else. Plus, I like card games*, so I'm really curious about this one. I've never heard of it before, but a game with rules like "black twos are higher than black tens, but red twos are not," is exactly my kind of game.


*And for the card-curious, my current favorite game has a not-kid-friendly name, so my family just calls it Rules.

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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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Better Waiting in Westerville

   May 28th, 2009 Brian Herzog

restaurant pagerHere's an interesting idea:

The Westerville (OH) Public Library has wii and Xbox 360 set up in the library for patrons to use. The games are popular, of course, and often have a waiting list.

To improve the patron experience, their Friends group purchased a set of restaurant pagers (those disks with flashing lights and vibrations that alert people when their table is ready), which the library uses to let patrons know when it's their turn to play.

I thought this was a great idea. These pagers could also be used when patrons have to wait for computers or study rooms, or anything, really. They require staff time to manage, but they seem more efficient than a sign-up sheet, and they have the added benefit of letting patrons use the library while they're waiting, instead of being stuck in one spot.

Good job, Westerville.

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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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Reference Question of the Week – 7/20/08

   July 26th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Beijing 2008 Stamp mockupThis reference question is just funny. A coworker and I were sitting at the desk when the phone rang. She answered it, so I only heard her half of the conversation:

My coworker: Reference desk.
[a few seconds of silence]
My coworker: No, I'm not.
[a few seconds of silence]
My coworker: Sorry, no, I don't.
[a long time of silence]
My coworker: Well, I'm not sure. I don't think there is actually a list, that anybody keeps. Maybe you could put an ad in the paper?
[a few seconds, then the patron hangs up]

After the call, my coworker turns to me, smiling, to fill me in. Apparently, the patron first asked if she, my coworker, was going to the Olympics in China later this year. When she said no, the patron asked if she knew of anyone who was going.

With my coworker answering no to that as well, the patron explained her question. Apparently China is issuing special postage stamps for the Olympic summer games. The patron's grandson collects stamps, so the patron was looking for someone who was going to Beijing for the games and could mail him a postcard with one of the special Olympic stamps affixed.

Which is a very nice thing to do, but I'm not sure why she thought the library maintained a list of people going to the Olympics. I thought the suggestion of putting an ad in the newspaper was a pretty good one - you never know who responds to newspaper ads, but it just might work.

In looking for a picture of the stamp in question, I found a few websites that might interest philatelists:

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