Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poor thing

It was fairly quiet on the children's desk this evening so I kept a five-year-old girl company. It was the usual--parent in the library but completely ignoring her. She couldn't read yet so I found her some wordless picture books to look at. She looked very carefully through one called Chicken and Cat Clean Up. Two-sentence summary: The title characters have a cleaning company which is hired by an elephant to clean his house, but Cat is an earnest but incompetent cleaner so the elephant kicks her out of the house when he sees the results. Outside the house she redeems herself by aprehending a mugger.

We had just gotten to the popint where the elephant has kicked Cat out, and the little girl was confused. "What happened?" she asked.

"The elephant was mad because she messed up his house, so he made her leave."

The girl looked pensive for a moment and then said, "Poor thing. She was trying her best, but she doesn't get any respect."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Super-long refgrunt from last week

True to the specifications of this genre of writing, I included every interaction, or at least all I could remember. This makes it a more accurate snapshot of what I do, but less interesting. If you're willing to skim there are a few good ones, though.

From a Saturday:

Can you help me find a book on art that ‘pops out’? Like chalk art, as an example. I’m supposed to sketch it for my homework…This is the exact thing I was looking for, thank you!

Coworker wants to go on break but will wait until the librarian comes back.

Can I use your stapler?

Can we use that to make copies? You don’t need a credit card or anything?

Do you have a pair of scissors I can borrow?

A Chinese lady has lots of questions about registering to vote.

It says you have a copy of the Laurel and Hardy collection here but I can’t find it. (We found it!)

Taught a nice lady how to copy and paste song lyrics from a website into Microsoft Word. She said “You are a wonderful teacher!”

Do you have the book “Color: a natural history of the palette?” Another branch does. Do you want me to put it on hold? No, I can go over there and get it. Okay, I’ll call to make sure they have it and they can hold it at the information desk for you.

Then that branch’s phone goes straight to voice mail.

A lady wants to find information on A.J. Smitherman, Tulsa newspaper owner and activist, and the Tulsa Riots. (Smitherman is her uncle!) I find her some books on the riots and then pass her on to a librarian for more detailed reference help.

Do you need help finding your holds?

Restart one of the catalog computers for a hard of hearing lady who is NOT happy that we only have three and the other two are in use.

Do you have Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Just a minute. (three-second pause) Never mind.

Can we watch Cartoon Network?

I’m having trouble finding this book in the catalog. That’s because it’s only searching our branch and that book is at another branch. I can put it on hold for you.

Can you turn up the TV? No.

You have this book but it says it’s checked out. No it doesn’t, it’s in paperback.

I’m looking for two DVDs but I don’t know if you have them. Save the Last Dance (lost) and Iron Man. The first Iron Man or the second one? It doesn’t matter.

Where can I find books on Excel?

Teach a woman to place holds using the public catalog.

Do you have this book? (Showing catalog) This means we have it at other locations, but not here.

Woman I taught about holds: How will I be notified when my holds come in?

Update the same woman’s telephone number and PIN.

She says “Thank you! You were very helpful!”

Can I help you? I want to get on a computer but there are kids sitting at all of those. Well, let’s see what’s available. There are lots of spots in the lab. No, can you ask one of those kids to get off? I want to sit over there but they are just playing at the computers. My supervisor goes over and asks one of the kids if he can sit somewhere else, then comes back and says to me “There are plenty of computers! Why are people like that?”

Small girl with a twenty dollar bill: Do you have change for this?

I want to take Superman off of hold.

Can you help me find some math books? A lengthy reference interview follows in which it is determined that the patron wants to do better in 7th grade math but doesn’t know what she needs to know. I get her a GED prep book and show her the basic math section. Not a 100% success.

Guy who taught the practice SAT class, without identifying himself: One of the librarians gave me these pencils.

I spot the Trouble Brothers, who have already been kicked out for the day, crawling not-so-stealthily along the floor near the printer. “Seriously!?” They flee before I can apprehend them.

Am I in the right place? For what? To sign up for a library card? You can do that over at the customer service desk, ma’am.

Is the Wii working?

These are the Mended Hearts Newsletters. Where do they go? Okaaaay…so you bring them and give them to us? Yes. (Helplessly) Could you ask at customer service?

Books on genealogy.

Where do I go to request back issues of Consumer Reports?

You should have a book on hold for me. It should be on the shelf. Same guy: Do you have “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number”? No, sorry.

Fourth book in the Gatekeepers series. This one we do have!

Mexican ghost stories. This one we have, too!
Books on the clarinet.

Star Wars, Attack of the Clones.

It says there is a problem with my account, but I’ve never even used this to check out books before.

The USB ports on one of the public computers are broken!

Can I borrow a library card? Not unless your mom or dad is here to sign for it, sorry.

Is there something wrong with this computer? It won’t let me put in my number.

Kid wordlessly hands me a library card. Yes? I want to play the Wii. How old are you? Nine. The record says he was born in 1967. Is this your mom or dad’s card? My mom’s. Well, I’m not supposed to let you play with her card unless she’s here, sorry.

Walk please! (Times a hundred)

The police come to cite the Trouble Brothers for criminal trespassing.

Help an old lady who keeps dropping her books on CD.

Is there another copy of this that we can check out? You can check out that one!

On a website: Usually I can read this. Why is it so small? Is there anything I can do?

Please can you help me send this email?

Where are your restrooms?

Argue with tweens about what is acceptable ID/ransom to check out a Wii controller.

Kid: You seriously won’t let me play? You don’t trust me!?...you have a lot of liberrians around here!”

A woman spent 20 minutes waiting for a huge .wav file to download only to discover that her public PC doesn’t have functional audio.

How do I print this? ...It’s going to cost $4.80 to make two color copies of this. Oh! Then I don’t want it.

Can you look up how many owners are listed on this property?

Catalog confusion: When I punch in ‘Annie Sloane’ I don’t get anything but I know you have some of her books. They want the last name first, ma’am.

Change the pickup locations for a bunch of holds the Menopause Lady placed.


Big news, Dear Readers! I got another job at a different library. I will be staying at my current job and picking this one up in addition. So, starting next week, look here not only for public library anecdote, but also for news from: The Community College Library.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Most exciting reference question

Today has been massively slow at all the information desks. I was sulking about it until a woman came up to me with a design like this:

written on the back of a folded envelope. She asked "Can you tell me what this is?"

"Okay," I said. "What else can you tell me about it?"

"Well, it's for an organization. That my friend says he is in."

On a hunch, I did a Google image search for "masonic symbol" and scrolled down until I found this image. "Are you sure the letter is an A?" I asked, and she said it was either an A or a G. So, yep. Definitely a Masonic symbol. Then she wanted to know who the Masons were, so I got her books on freemasonry.

Not only was this possibly my most interesting reference interaction, and also possibly my biggest reference accomplishment (found the answer on the first try!), it was also the question that I wished I could ask follow-up questions about the most.

The motives for most reference questions are pretty clear. Either you can intuitively tell why a piece of information is useful or wanted (where is the closest place I can scan something? How do I get to this address? How do you spell 'Nickelodeon'?) or, if you're at all friendly and interested, the patron tells you (I want information about A.J. Smitherman. He was my uncle.).

But I will never, ever know the end result of this woman's search. New number one frustration with my job.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Priceless moment in the children's section

I put a book on the 'back to school' display and in the same evening heard a group of kids reading it out loud to each other!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All the reference...part 2

From August 30th.

Woman wants to see if we have two titles—they’re both textbooks, so unsurprisingly we don’t. She’s a student at the local community college so I find them for her in their library catalog.

Different woman wants a list of places to take ESL classes.

The college student wants to know if ‘devilish’ is a synonym for ‘frightened’ or something else, I forget what. Neither option is a synonym but I’m not so naive as to get into that. I show her a thesaurus and explain how to use it. (Bonus: she begins the question by asking “Can I ask you a personal question? In your opinion…”).

Where can I find a book on making a living trust in Texas?

All the customers for the rest of the hour are old men. One wants the autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant, but our only copy is at another branch and he doesn’t have a library card and won’t pay the $50 non-resident fee to get one, so he can’t place holds. I tell him that JUST THIS ONCE I will put it on my own card, because I’m a huge history nerd, and he should check the shelf in a few days. I hope word doesn’t get around.

Another old man wants to know why his hold on an ebook has disappeared. Turns out it hasn’t; ebook holds show up only on the vendor website, not when a patron logs into the catalog.

Third old man wants a DVD—only copy is at the branch across town. He doesn’t want to place a hold and says he’ll “wait until another day” as if somehow it will magically come over on its own.

Where is the biography section?

The Trouble Brothers are being loud at the children’s PCs.

One of the Trouble Brothers is picking up the keyboard.

A youngish girl wants ‘ballet tapes’ (instructional DVDs for ballet). All of the good stuff is at other branches so her mom comes over to give approval for placing holds and kind of takes over the process (eventually the girl wanders away). Then the same mom wants books on the Star Spangled Banner. Oh, and inventors from the early 19th century. All for kids. Not encyclopedias—well ma’am, a biographical encyclopedia of scientists might give you an idea of who to get biographies of….this is the biography section. This is how it’s organized.

“My Sister is a Vampire” books (all checked out).

Books for first graders/learning to read books.

Man I helped earlier walks by and says thank you.

Do I REALLY have to tell you not to put your feet on the computer table? (Trouble Brothers again)

Explain to my kids the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

Which books should a first grader and a fourth grader read? (Not readers’ advisory, just wanting to know the meaning of ‘junior fiction’ versus ‘early reader’ etc.)

A nice lady has me look up three children’s series to find out the title of the first in each, and place them on hold for her.

I need your help with the color printer.

Man on the phone has an 8-disc Pimsleur program for learning Russian and wants the 16-disc one instead. It’s checked out so I place it on hold for him and make sure we have his correct phone number to notify him. At the end of the conversation he says, “May I compliment you? You’re great on the phone. You have a good phone voice and you sound like you really enjoy your job.” Highlight of my day so far!

‘Where’s Waldo’ books.

I put these on hold but I don’t want them anymore. You can take them off. They can do that for you at the Customer Service desk, ma’am.

Damp man: Surprise! It’s raining outside!

It says my print job is too many pages. What do I do?

If the computer is asking for a password does that mean someone else has it reserved?

How do I print in black and white? Just one page.

More help for the ‘just one page’ guy.

Do you have three paper clips?

Can you help us print from this website?

Man wants help deactivating not one, but two Facebook accounts. He’s really nice, but it takes FOREVER.

Help a kid with a homework assignment! (For the first time ever!) She is doing a geography project and needs two pictures, one that shows the ‘absolute’ location of our city and one that shows its ‘relative’ location. I help her brainstorm ideas and show her a road atlas and a city map.

All the reference questions that are fit to print

From August 16th.

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Is there a schedule for the computer classes?

Is Sarah here? No, she’s at lunch. Can I give her a message for you? Is this the customer service desk? No, the customer service desk is over there. I have to pick up something from her and she said she would leave it for me at the service desk. Well you will have to ask over there. Isn’t there a way you can check for me so I don’t have to stand in line? No, ma’am.

Coworker wants to know where the math tutoring applications are.

Something is wrong with the Wii.

Mom and daughter are confused by Yahoo!

Mom and daughter are confused by the school district website website.

Excuse me (from across the library), can you cancel this reservation?

I’m from [nearby city] but I want to print my son’s schedule for the local high school. Is there a free computer or do I have to live here? (You can get a card with us for free since we have reciprocity with you!)

Accept two applications for math tutoring from a woman who really wants her 7th grade son to learn 8th grade math.

Print My Son's Schedule comes back to update her address and to check which family members the two cards on her key ring belong to.

These printed out. I’m giving them to you for recycling.

I can’t return books here (at the self-check), can I? If I put them in the book return will my fines be updated right away? Also, one of the DVDs I rented has water damage, what should I do?

The mom and daughter need more help navigating the school district website.

Can you sign me in for the Wii?

Coworker wants to borrow the copier override key and wants to know “Don’t we have some job information?”

I restart a dead catalog computer.

After all the work of the mom and daughter, the school district website goes down.


I fix minor problems with a catalog computer.

A mother and daughter can’t open an email attachment that they themselves have created. I try a variety of strategies with them. Turns out to be Yahoo’s fault.

I’m done with the Wii.

One of our regulars wordlessly hands me a kid’s DVD. Questioning reveals that he found it abandoned by the copier.

Can I use your scissors?

What’s going on on my computer? This is a catalog computer, you can’t use it to access other parts of the internet.

“Yahoo is only showing me half of my email. Can you help me see the whole thing?” (Reloading the page changed the formatting back to normal.)

Accept returned white-out.

Check for two audiobooks for a patron on the phone. We had neither : ( .

Can you please show me how to print? I won’t bother you again.

My favorite YS librarian introduces me to two members of her fan club.

Is this a C or an O or a zero or what? It’s C0. We tried that. Oh wait, no we didn’t.

My document is printing out all weird. Try using Adobe instead of the Gmail preview window.

You can’t have your library card back until you bring back the wiimote.

Where are the GED books?

I want to sign up for the Wii.