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

Reference Question of the Week – 1/21

   January 27th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Eccentric patrons are actually kind of fun to work with when they are nice and polite. This week's reference question was asked, not only by a very nice and polite woman, but also someone who was previously featured here.

She called Thursday afternoon, and again wanted to know when her SSA check would arrive. Very happily, I accessed my own blog and used the links I put there to find the 2007 calendar to answer her question. I know I've used other peoples' blogs to answer reference question, but this is the first time I've used my own. Neat.

Anyway, the patron continued:

Patron: ...so you think the check will be in my mailbox on Friday? Thanks. Okay, can you help me with a personal matter? Can you find out if a company named Hillard in Chelmsford is still in business? They came to fix my outside hose faucet that was leaking and he replaced it and then it was leaking again and he replaced it and now since its cold and the town is flushing the pipes the faucet is leaking again and when I called them last week they told me that two faucets couldn't both be bad and I am just wondering if they are still in business after talking to their customers like that.
Me: Oh. Well, I don't think I can tell if they are still in business. But I can see what I can find on them. [type, type, type] Well, I did find them mentioned on the internet, although they're listed as being in Lowell.
Patron: Well, I guess that's possible. I never can keep straight the town lines, since they move them all the time.
Me: And I checked a database we have of all the businesses in the country, and they are listed in there. It looks like they've been in business for 12 years, and the owner is Gary Hillard.
Patron: Okay, I guess I'll give them another call...

Now, I didn't feel like I completely gave her the answer she wanted, but I wasn't sure what else I could do. How do you tell if a company has gone out of business in the last week? But she must have been satisfied, because she very quickly moved on to the next topic:

Patron: ...not to change the subject, but can you find a web space on your comptraption that sells things not made in China?
Me: Oh, I think so - are you looking for products made in the U.S.A.? [type, type, type] I found a couple website that...
Patron: Yes I used to work at a store and there was a woman on the second floor who wouldn't touch any of the products because she said they were covered in sweat and that those oriental girls only get five cents a day and I don't like that so I was just looking for a way to not buy from Chinese people. Well, thanks for listening to me, good bye. [click]

If you'll notice, I never did give her any of the websites I found. I'm only making a presumption here, but I can't imagine this patron shopping online, anyway - perhaps she just wanted someone to listen to her.

But I got interested in it, so here are a few of the websites I did find (no endorsement implied):

libraries, library, made in usa, reference question, referenceusa, ssa

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