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

Reference Question of the Week – 8/5/12

   August 11th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Chicken photoSome of my favorite reference questions are those that I can answer from personal experience. If a patron asks a question about hiking, knitting, shooting, history, woodworking, seaglass, gold panning, technology, or any of a variety of my other hobbies, I can do more than just find books or resources for them. Personal touches like this can make a good library experience a great community connection.

But of course, the opposite is true. Last week, a patron walked up to the desk and laid this on me:

I won a whole chicken in a Church raffle over the weekend. The women there told me to cook it at 375 degrees, but didn't say how long. How long do you cook a chicken?

Cooking is not one of my hobbies. I know how long it takes to cook minute rice, but that's about it. I felt dumb, but I honestly had no idea how long it takes to cook a chicken.

But I do know where our cookbooks are. To save time, I searched our catalog for "chicken recipes" and The best chicken recipes looked promising.

I gave it to the patron, who didn't look too impressed - he wanted a time, not a book. I made some comment about my cooking abilities (or lack thereof), and with no coworker around for me to ask (and I'm sure any of my coworkers would have known), he sat down with the book.

A little while later, he came up to the desk to return it - he also said he found a great recipe. So that's good - he might not have gotten what he expected, but he did get what he needed.

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