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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/28/07

   November 3rd, 2007 Brian Herzog

Jack O'Lantern photographI know I kind of missed the boat with these (after all, Halloween was three days ago - now it's time for Christmas), but here are two Halloween-related questions from this week:

Halloween Question 1
A patron called in on Halloween night:

Patron: How do you spell "satanic?"
Me: Oh, it's S-A-T...
Patron: Wait, wait, let me get a pencil and paper...
Patron: ...okay, go ahead.
Me: It's S-A-T...
Patron: That's too fast!
Me: I'm sorry; it's S...A...T...A...N...I...C
Patron: Okay, thanks. [click]

Who knows what that was about. Also, it amazes me that only about 10% of the people I talk to on the phone around here say "goodbye" before they hang up.

Halloween Question 2
A patron called in on Tuesday (Oct. 30th), and asked:

I'm having Halloween dinner party tomorrow night, and want to have a Halloween trivia contest. I don't have time to come to the library, so can you find some Halloween trivia and email it to me?

Normally, I try to discourage the reference staff from actually doing the patron's work for them (as opposed to teaching or helping them), but in this case I decided to just do it.

All it took was a web search for "halloween trivia," and then copy/pasting ten questions from various websites into a Word file. I then converted this to pdf and emailed it to the patron.

Since this was obviously not an academic assignment, I was willing to bend the rules. Plus, I always like being able to help people according to their lifestyle needs - in this case, a phone call and an email was all it took for this patron to get the information she needed.

That is much better, I think, than making her come into the library so I could help her find websites and then show her how to copy/paste and then format text in Word and then charging her $0.15 to print it. What took me about ten minutes saved this patron who knows how much time, and that's the impression of the library I want our patrons to have.

By the way, some of the Halloween trivia is below, and the rest (and the answers to these questions) is in the pdf file [7kb] (it's nothing special, trust me).

What ancient festival is considered to have evolved into our modern Halloween?

  • Lammas
  • Beltane
  • Samhain
  • Ostara

How much money is spent on Halloween candy annually in the United States?

  • $1 million
  • $200 million
  • $500 million
  • $2 billion

According to legend, a unibrow, tattoos, and a long middle finger are all signs of what Halloween creature?

  • a werewolf
  • a vampire
  • a witch
  • a golem

How many "witches" were burned at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials?

  • Twelve
  • Twenty
  • Thirty-three
  • None

Ghosts that do pranks are known as what?

  • Spookers
  • Poltergeists
  • Ghosts
  • Specters

What are male witches called?

  • Warlocks
  • Morlocks
  • Manwitches
  • Sorcerors
  • Gingriches

Download the pdf file [7kb] for the answers to these (and more) questions.

Some of the sources I used for this project are:

halloween, halloween trivia, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, satanic, trivia, trivia questions

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