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

Reference Question of the Week – 2/25/18

   March 3rd, 2018 Brian Herzog

I've used this exact same technique before to answer a question, but the end result of this one still made me laugh.

A patron I know asked me to put a book on hold for him. Since I know him, I didn't ask for his library card number - I just figured I'd look him up.

Unfortunately, he has a fairly common name, so there were three patrons by that name in the catalog. I didn't know his street address either, but I do know what his pickup truck looks like - so I thought I'd look up these addresses on Google Maps and see if his pickup was parked at any of them. I suspect this is how all reference librarians think.

I type in the first address and switch over to street view. What do I find? Not only was his pickup parked in the driveway, but he was in the yard cutting the grass - case closed!

Of course, you can see him better when you move around and zoom in on Google Maps, but even from the back I was positive it was him. Ha.

Tags: , , , , ,

Reference Question of the Week – 6/16/13

   June 22nd, 2013 Brian Herzog

Nuns with gunsI work in Chelmsford, MA, and the Town is in the process of establishing two "cultural districts" in two of our local historical village centers. It's similar to a historical district, but instead focuses on what makes Chelmsford culturally-distinct: art, architecture, programs & events, etc.

The group asked me to help create a map of both districts, labeling all the different locations of interest. I've played a little with custom Google Maps before, and this seemed like the perfect application to try out all the different features.

Creating the maps (check out the current working drafts) was pretty straight-forward. One of the committee members found a great site for custom map icons (which also explained how to make them work), and the text for each point of interest came from a variety of sources.

It was researching each location for a descriptive blurb for the map that produced this week's reference question. I was asked to add St. John The Evangelist Parish church to the North Chelmsford map, so I went to their website looking for something interesting to say about them. What I found was hands-down the most interesting thing I've read in a long time:

The earliest Catholic families living in Chelmsford, Dunstable, Lowell, Tyngsboro and Westford wanted a church of their own. St. Patrick's, Lowell was a five to ten mile walk. The families purchased the Meeting House of the Second Congregational Church of Chelmsford at the corner of Middlesex and Baldwin Streets, Lowell, in 1859. [...]

Men, who toiled in factory, foundry or farm, hurried to the holy work each evening. They struggled to move the building with the aid of horses and log rollers, a few yards at a time, for a distance of two miles along Middlesex Street. "Know Nothing" citizenry, a violent anti-Catholic group, made threats to burn the building and gained court injunctions to stop the building’s movement. The two mile journey was made with at least four men, armed with shotguns, and guarding the Church each night.

Holy smokes, now that is dedication. Researching local history rocks.

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

Free Calling with Google Maps

   December 28th, 2006 Brian Herzog

Calling with Google Maps I don't know how long this has been around, but just today I noticed that Google Maps has a built-in feature for calling businesses - for free.

When you search for a business in Google Maps, say, the "Chelmsford Public Library, Chelmsford MA," Google will display the location on a map, as well as list on the left the name, address and phone number of matching business/organizations.

Next to the phone number, though, there's a "call" link which I never saw before. Clicking on it opens a box into which you enter your own telephone number. When you click the "Connect for free" button, the service will call your number, and when you answer, automatically connect you to that business' phone number.

And best of all, Google pays for the call (if you're using a cell phone, you still pay for your airtime). I've heard of internet calling before, but never saw it so seamlessly and usefully integrated. Of course you have to type in your own number, and hope that Google keeps their promise of protecting your number.

For more about this service, see Google Maps' help page.

free telephone, google maps, internet calling

Tags: , , , ,