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

Reference Question of the Week – 8/3/14

   August 9th, 2014 Brian Herzog

Westford Farmers MarketA patron called in, wanting to know the hours of a farmers market in a neighboring town. She thought it opened at 2:30pm, and that's what the newspaper said. However, she had driven by the site earlier in the week and a sign said the hours were 3-7pm.

A quick search lead me to their website, which listed the hours as 2:30-6:30. That seemed fairly conclusive to me, but the patron was still troubled. I wish we recorded calls so I could have transcribed this verbatim, but this is my memory of how she digested this information:

Well, I don't know which time is right, or why they're posting all these different times all over creation. I don't always trust newspapers, but I suppose the internet time is probably right. I mean, it's easy to put something on the internet right? I imagine it takes time to repaint a sign, so maybe they changed the time and just haven't repainted their sign yet. So I'll just go there at 2:30 because their website says that. 2:30 is better for my schedule anyhow.

I had no advice to give one way or the other, so I agreed and we hung up. I've never known an open-air market like this to be a stickler for hours of operation, so if her concern was for being able to select items before they were sold out, she should be fine.

And for what it's worth, every other web resource I found listed 2:30 as well. Maybe they'll have their sign repainted for next year.

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Reference Question of the Week – 3/9/08

   March 15th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Stock ticker in Hong KongA patron walked up to the desk and asks for a resource that tells him how the world financial markets are doing.

At first, this seemed like an easy question. But after I thought about it a minute, I realized we don't have any print resources in the library devoted to world financial markets - just the domestic markets.

So, we tried a few different internet searches, and "global market index" seemed to yield the greatest number of reputable websites, such as:

Plenty of other websites referenced international indices, but I couldn't tell how reliable they were. Also, some only did currency exchange, but that wasn't what the patron was after.

The patron was happy with this list of urls, so he jotted them down to bookmark when he got home.

The financial world is still mostly a foggy mystery to me, so every time I do get a question about it, I try to poke around and keep looking until I learn something.

In this case, I soon found myself at the About.com page for Foreign Stock Exchange Quotes. Listed as one of the links on this page was Google Finance, and since I use Yahoo Finance for various things, I thought I'd check out how Google compared.

While searching here, I think it was me using the term "world" that led me to the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.'s financial statements. Of course I was curious, so I took a look, and here are some interesting facts from their 2007 annual data:

  • revenues: $485.65 million
  • expenses: $417.22 million
  • net income: $52.14 million
  • they paid $24.33 million in taxes
  • they also had a line item for "Research & Development" but no monies charged to it

Sadly, the reports weren't very detailed, so I couldn't tell how that $417.22 million was spent. Also sadly was their lack of research and development - but at least they had a line item for it. Now this was worth learning, wasn't it?

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