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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/14/12

   October 20th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Official Green Hornet Agent badgeThis was the entirety of a call that came in Wednesday afternoon this week:

[ring ring]
Me: Reference desk, can I help you?
Patron: Yeah can can...can you tell me what...what's on green tonight Green Lantern...Lantern...I mean Green...you know...the other one...Green Lantern...Green...Arrow...Arrow Green...Green Arrow yeah Green Arrow no... Lantern Green...Green...um...it's not Green Lantern, it's not Green Arrow...um...HORNET Green Hornet can you tell me what's on Green Hornet tonight oh wait it's Wednesday nevermind [click]

We have a patron who frequently calls to find out which episodes of his shows are going to be on that day. He usually ends up watching them all anyway, regardless of the episode, but he just wants to know in advance.

In this case, I think he had just woken up from a nap, and only eventually realized his show wasn't on that night.

In general, my favorite "what's on TV" resource is Zap2It.com, because it usually provides better descriptions of "local programming" than TVGuide.com. Although for some of this patron's shows, we have to go right to the MeTV Channel's website for schedule and descriptions.

This patron calls with this question so much that I've bookmarked both of these websites at all the reference computers. It kind of makes me laugh that we have ready reference resources devoted to just one patron, but it certainly is worth it.

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What Does “Video” Mean Today?

   April 18th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Internet Killed the Video Store? signHere's a topic that I've heard come up multiple times recently in different contexts, and I'm curious if there is any kind of wider consensus on it. The question is, what does the word "video" mean to people?

We're redesigning our catalog, and in the process of coming up with format description, we had a discussion (and disagreement) on whether "video" means just VHS tapes, or if it refers to to DVDs and other formats as well (like "music" is a generic term for anything on CD, tape, etc). We're also redesigning our website, and in that context, we weren't sure if the word "video" means physical tapes/discs, or if people would presume it means online clips/episodes/tutorials/etc - or both.

So I thought I'd take a quick poll - please make a selection, but also leave a comment below on why, or if I've missed an option entirely.

[poll link]

And a question for another time: in light of this, does the "video" in "video game" make sense?

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Reference Question of the Week – 9/18/11

   September 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Sony flat panel televisionA patron came up to the desk with "SONY" written on a piece of paper. He said,

This is the kind of TV I have; can I plug headphones into it? I looked at the television but there are so many little plug holes that I don't know what they're all for.

I explained that Sony makes lots of different models, some with and some without headphone jacks. We really needed the actual model number of his television to answer this, so he said he'd go home and look for that and call me when he found it.

20 minutes later he calls, and I do an image search for sony kdl32l5000 to look at the pictures. My logic was that a headphone jack would probably be right on the front of the television if anywhere, so it should be easy to spot. If that didn't work, then I'd look for specs or a manual.

I found lots of pictures of the front, back, and sides of the television, but didn't see a headphone jack anywhere. None of the reviews mentioned headphones either. To double-check, I visited the Sony's product webpage for this television. I did Ctrl+F to search for headphone on the page, but there was no mention - and disappointing product images, too.

All the while, the patron had been describing the jacks he could find - none of which had a picture of little headphones next to it.

For a quick last attempt, I did another search for kdl32l5000 headphones and found the manual, and also the chat log of someone offering support for this exact question. I found the chat log hilarious, but between that and everything else I'd found, the conclusion was that there is no headphone jack on this television.

The patron was fine with that when I told him. However, in the meantime he had inadvertently pulled all the other wires out of the television while sliding it around, so the headphones were now the least of his worries.

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Reference Question of the Week – 2/20/11

   February 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Jerry SpringerTen minutes to eleven one morning, a patrons comes to the desk in a little bit of a panic. He asks,

Can you look up to see what's on Jerry Springer today? It starts at eleven.

On our entertainment subject guide page, we have a link to the Boston Globe's television listings. I scrolled to find Jerry Springer and read the show description to him:

Jerry Springer
Episode: I'm Leaving My Wife for a Tranny (NEW)

A man wants to leave his wife for a transsexual; a woman reveals a secret; a man worries his one-night stand could end his marriage.

When I finished, the patron said, "whew, nothing that I'm interested in" and went back to his computer.

But wait, there's more!

About 11:45 the phone rang, and it was this patron - I didn't see him leave, but apparently he went home to watch the show anyway. He was calling to ask what Jerry Springer's phone number was to get tickets, because they said it too fast on the show and he couldn't write it down.

In the course of looking for that, I found a listing of other Jerry Springer phone numbers - one for each of the show's areas of specialty. Now that was enlightening.

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Reference Question of the Week – 4/4/10

   April 10th, 2010 Brian Herzog

CastleI haven't done a good, old fashioned, "look it up on the internet" type reference question in awhile, so this was kind of fun. A patron asked,

What was the name of the song they played at the end of Castle this week?

I actually like Castle*, but hadn't seen the episode yet because I watch it online instead of on television. So, the first step was to get the name of the episode by looking up Castle on Hulu.com ("Wrapped up in Death" aired on 4/5).

Next we searched the internet for "Wrapped up in Death" castle song to see if anyone else was talking about this song. One of the results, heardontv.com, was exactly what we needed - it even described the scene when the song was played. According to that website, the song was "Love Is Endless" by Mozella.

The final step was to search for this song on YouTube just to make sure it was the right one. It was, so the patron was happy.

A video of the song is below, but I warn you: it's catchy, and will likely get stuck in your head. I noticed the patron was humming it when he left twenty minutes later.


*And it humors me to no end that my library actually shelves Richard Castle books.

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Reference Question of the Week – 2/7/10

   February 13th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Eric and DonnaFor all you Valentine's Day sentimentalists out there, here are two questions that came in about a week apart, but from the same patron:

Did Eric and Donna from "That 70's Show" end up getting married?


Does SpongeBob like Sandy?

I used to watch "That 70's Show" but apparently stopped watching before the last couple seasons, because I had no idea what happened to the characters. Nor, now that someone reminded me of it, did I particularly care, but this patron seemed very concerned.

Apparently, many other people are too: when I searched Google for an answer, the auto-complete showed other searches for this question.

But from what I could find, it seems that no, they never did get married, and the series ended with ambiguity as to what their relationship was like.

SpongeBob and SandyThere is also much curiosity about SpongeBob's relationship status. But again, what I read indicated there is nothing going on between SpongeBob and Sandy. In fact, there's speculation that SpongeBob is gay and has a somewhat romantic relationship with Patrick.

My favorite comment on the idea of "Sandy SquarePants:"

"I'm sorry i don't see a sponge mating with a squirrel under the sea. its just not happening. and i don't think its biologically possible either."

But really - does such cold logic have any places in matters of the heart?

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