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

Reference Question of the Week – 5/26/13

   June 1st, 2013 Brian Herzog

Quote: You've really got to start hitting the books because it's no joke out here.  -Spike LeeIn case you missed the discussion or the post on LISNews, there have been a flurry of great "library one-liners" on the publib email list. Nothing I could come up with can top these, to please check them out. A few of my favorites were:

I need a photograph, not a painting, of the meteor hitting the earth and killing off the dinosaurs.
~ Dusty Snipes Grès – Ohoopee Regional Library – GA

I once had a patron complain because our color copier wouldn’t make color copies of his black and white Resume. I never did figure out exactly what he was expecting.
~ Michael Gregory – Campbell County Public Library – KY

Patron - I'm looking for information on the Sultana Indians
Me (after a long and fruitless search) - where did you get this reference?
Patron - I dreamed about them.
~ Lisa Richland – Floyd Memorial Library – NY

The problem is that, while reading through the submissions, I immediately started thinking of resources that might be used to answer them. Oh well.

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Bookshelf FAIL

   January 20th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This just makes me laugh...
Bookshelf FAIL

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Reference Question of the Week – 6/6/10

   June 12th, 2010 Brian Herzog

You Bet Your Life logoA middle-aged male patron approached me while I was at the desk alone and asked,

Do you know any good jokes?

In fact I do, so I told him my current favorite:

A duck walks into a bar wearing one shoe. The bartender says, "Hey duck, you lost a shoe." And the duck says, "Nope, I found one."

Awesome. Anyway, he said he liked it, but he wanted a lot of jokes. I showed him where our humor section* was, and he said he'd look around.

A little while later, he came back up to the desk and said he wanted jokes delivered by text message to his phone. We started searching the internet for "jokes by text" and "joke of the day" and found a ton of jokes people could retype and send out as text messages. There were also lots of jokes by email, and other joke sites, but most looked kind of sketchy.

Then we found Comedy Central's jokes.com. It offers signups for a joke of the day by both email and text, and they seem reputable enough to trust. The text messages were not free, and when he saw that he kind of gave up on the idea.

Before he left, he asked if I knew any other good jokes, so I told him my all-time favorite:

A hotdog walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food."

Ah, the many required skills of a librarian.


*Of all the classes of the Dewey Decimal System, the 800's irritate me the most. Patrons just want to browse for poetry, but no, the books are arranged geographically by the author's country, and sometimes chronologically by publication date, which means similar books are in multiple sections. Our humor books are in 818.5 (or .6), which is something like Literature > Miscellaneous Writings > American Authors of the 20th (or 21st) Century, but could also be in the 808's, 817's, 827's, blah blah blah.

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Libraries to Start Lending Money

   March 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

cash on shelfConsidering the current economic times, this might actually be a good idea - but I think they should've waited until April 1st to announce it.

...From today, customers borrowing books will also be able to take out financial loans for a period of three weeks, though it may be possible to renew the terms of these agreements provided no other customer is waiting to borrow the cash...

Read more here. Thanks, VAT.

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You Know You’re A Genealogist If…

   December 9th, 2008 Brian Herzog

genealogy booksOne of the publications that gets mailed to my library is aROUNDtheTABLE, the newsletter of The Genealogy Roundtable in Concord, MA.

In addition to success stories from peoples' family research, it also often has tips on things like scanning black and white negatives, how photos can be used for research, etc. This issue also had some humorous columns - here are some excerpts which made me laugh on a Tuesday afternoon:

You know you're addicted to Genealogy...

  • ...when you brake for libraries
  • ...if you get locked in a library overnight and you never even notice

Top ten worst ways to begin a family history:

  • #8 - "Cal me Ishmael," our ancestor Ishmael Johnson might have said if you asked, "What should we call you?"
  • #6 - Let me start by saying this book would have been better if my g'damn relatives had answered my g'damn questions.
  • #1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Several years later, my grandmother was born in Des Moines.

Ah, humor makes any periodical more interesting.

And speaking of genealogy, I attended a great genealogy session at the annual NELA conference. Given by Cindy O’Neil of the Manchester (NH) City Library, it outlined the resources needed for a genealogy core collection (for New England), and is worth skimming.

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Reference Question of the Week – 8/24/08

   August 23rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Georgia invasion question on Yahoo AnswersA few months ago, I listed online services that provide answers to peoples' questions.

In the library world, the big concern is usually the quality of the answers - do these services provide the same level of quality in the answers that someone would get from a librarian?

As I read on studio twentysix2, perhaps we should be more concerned with the quality of the question.

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