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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/3/10

   October 9th, 2010 Brian Herzog

PrivacyI think this is about the fourth time I've personally helped a patron with a request like this - the phone rings...

Patron: Hi, I live in [town next to where my library is], and I'd like to request some books sent to your library instead of my own.
Me: Sure, to do that you... [explain how to use the online catalog]
Patron: Thank you very much, I was afraid it wasn't possible. I need to get some books on getting a divorce, and was afraid my husband or kids - or even the library staff - would see what I was getting.

I know this is a privacy scenario we all heard about in library school, but they really do happen in real life.

And it's lucky for this patron that we're part of the same consortium - if this patron's home library wasn't part of a system and she didn't trust the staff to be discreet and professional, I'm not sure what the alternatives would be. I don't know if an out-of-towner walked into any random library if they would be willing to ILL sensitive books just to avoid the patron's home library getting them.

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