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

Email Scam Competency Testing

   May 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

SPAM wallHere's something neat - and vital for library staff, both for those who directly provide computer help to patrons and for anyone else who uses a computer in their daily life:

A recent Slashdot post linked to a test to see how well people can identify spam, scam and phishing email messages (which can happen to anybody).

The test is provided by SonicWall, and would be a great for:

  • taking as a group during a staff meeting or training day
  • testing new employees to help protect your network and increase their tech competency
  • showing to students and computer literacy classes to teach them to evaluate websites and email messages

After you're finished, be sure to click the "why" links on the test results to see exactly what looks suspicious and what are the red flags - that is the most helpful part of the test.

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Tests for Hiring and Training

   July 30th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Cones in the stacksOne of my coworkers and her husband run Gibson's Bookstore, in Concord, NH. When hiring new employees, each applicant is given a knowledge of literature test to see how well they'll do at reader's advisory.

Their opinion is that bookstore staff are first and foremost reading advisers, and cashiers and stockers second. The test questions cover a broad scope of literature, just like the questions of customers (and library patrons):

2) Name five characters invented by William Shakespeare.
13) What is Ender Wiggin famous for?
14) James and the Giant ________ by Roald _______.
23) Why do some Sneetches feel superior to others?

To get hired, applicants must get at least half of the questions right. Perhaps libraries could implement something similar? Perhaps they already do.

I also have a list of reference questions and tasks I give to reference staff after they've been hired, to help with training. It is based on something my director found (can't remember what or where), but I tailored it to get new staff familiar with the type of questions we get, our collection, our policies, basic tech support, and reference in general. They get it as a Word document, and work on it for their first few months.

Some people like tests and some don't. But each in their own way, I think these tests are valuable to make sure that the people interacting with the public are really able to help the public.

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Recently Noticed Library References

   May 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

empty shelvesOver the weekend I found two references to libraries that I thought people would enjoy.

I just finished reading Guards! Guards!, by Terry Pratchett. It's a Discworld novel, and featured one of my favorite characters, the Librarian (of course). The plot is a bit complex, but I don't think this quote needs any setup:

Somehow, though, to a soul attuned to the subtle rhythms of a library, there are few worse sights than a hole where a book ought to be.

Someone had stolen a book.

Funny, because I get this same sinking feeling every time I'm pulling requested books, and the one I'm looking for is missing - the feeling is doubled when there's a gap in that spot on the shelf. Well captured, Sir Terry.

The second reference came when I was taking a Web 3.0 quiz on HowStuffWorks.com. Things were going along fine until I got to Question 9:

If the Web 1.0 experience is like going to a library and the Web 2.0 experience is like talking with a group of friends, what will the Web 3.0 experience be like?

  • having a personal assistant
  • going to class in a university lecture hall
  • going to a movie theater with every film and television show available to watch any time you like

Oh really? Libraries are like Web 1.0?

But the quizzes are interesting, so check out the whole list.

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Reference Question of the Week – 4/19/09

   April 25th, 2009 Brian Herzog

dewey shelvesSince I was traveling this week, I don't have a reference question today. But a fun post over on Closed Stacks can help hone reference skills.

It lists some online quizzes for brushing up on your Dewey and LC knowledge (I got 100% on both Dewey tests, so yay for my masters degree). Really, one of my favorite parts of the job is when someone comes to the desk and says,

Do you have any books on ____________?

and I'm able to immediately say, "yes, I'll show you where those are," and take them right to that subject in the stacks.

Afterwards, I explain why I could find them and how they can use the catalog to find books too, but the initial shock and surprise patrons show when you can seemingly pull a useful book out of thin air is too good to pass up.

Some patrons think I have every book in the library memorized. I try to convince them it's not magic, just organization, but many people still think locating information is beyond them. Maybe it means we need better signage.

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Turkey Trivia Quiz

   November 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog

animated turkeyI'm going to Ohio this week to spend Thanksgiving with my family, so I won't be posting anything.

Except for this: the same patron who called in for Halloween trivia called in again, this time asking for Thanksgiving trivia. We found a fun turkey trivia quiz which is worth the few minutes to take it.

For you American readers, I hope you enjoy your holiday; for everyone else, enjoy the reprieve; for me, I'll be enjoying about six audio books during the drive, not to mention my mom and dad's cooking when I get there.

quiz, reference question, thanksgiving, trivia, turkey

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