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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/23/11

   January 29th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Giant Squid fighting Sperm WhaleThis week's question is yet another one in which I wasn't involved: my library is a funny place all around.

The Children's librarian told me about a young boy she helped in the Childrens Room. He came up to her, all excited, and asked for help looking for information on sperm whales.

No problem, she thought. Animals and endangered species are big topics will school kids in Chelmsford, so we do have a lot of resources for questions like this. And before too long, she was able to find some sperm whale books for him.

The boy was happy, but not satisfied - next, he asked her for books about the "giant colossal squid." That request gave her pause, but every year we all get asked for information on an endangered species that we've never heard of before, so she started looking.

She checked the catalog and subscription databases, and had no luck. Next she went to the animal books and started searching through the indexes of anything that looked remotely promising, but again just could not find anything.

This is the way it continued, with my coworker expanding and expanding her search, trying to locate even a mention of the "giant colossal squid." But no matter what she tried, she couldn't find a thing.

Just then, the boy's mother walked up. After my coworker related to her what she was looking for and how it was going (not well), the mother replied,

Oh, don't worry - he only learned about it in a movie he watched last night. The "giant colossal squid" isn't actually a real animal.

This is why I love librarians - who else would work this hard just because a child was curious about something? Actually, now I'm kind of curious which movie it was this patron watched. Hmm.

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