Friday, January 30, 2015

A good ref shift

When I came to take over the desk this afternoon, I asked a coworker how it had been out here. He said, "Quiet. Well, either it's been quiet or they are saving up all of their questions for you." Turns out it was the latter.

Excuse me, is there any way this printer can print in color?

Can you help me fix up this thing I made in Publisher and then put into Microsoft Word for no discernible reason?

Books on suicide? My mother killed herself and I just haven't gotten over it at all.

Tax forms?

Can I have a pass to get on the computer?

Address and phone number of local probate court?

Olympic medals (previously mentioned).

Tsunami (previously mentioned).

I borrowed this book on CD but really I want to listen to it on my phone. They referred me to you. Something about downloading it? (I introduced him to Overdrive; he was very happy.)

Coworker: You're not supposed to have your laptop cord blocking the aisle right? I'll call security.

Tax forms?

Do you have the black national anthem? You know, Lift Every Voice and Sing? What key is it in?
When I ask what key he is looking for (the one I found isn't the right one) a patron standing by the desk helpfully volunteers his own preference, so loud that I don't hear the answer of the guy on the phone.

I have a library card from [different city]. Can I use that there?

Coworker: I am trying to 'laminate' this [reproducible tax forms binder label] with book tape. God I hate tax season.

Coworker to new security guard, who doesn't have a proper name badge, just a huge clip on name tag: Seriously!?
SG: I know. They got me a second uniform already, which I will probably never need, but no name tag.

Can you show me where to find a book about beginning algebra?

Where is the bathroom?

Can you tell me the number for Direct TV? Oh, also, while you are on there, they have a credit union over in Ann it the same as the one here? What is its phone number? Thank you so much! Have a blessed weekend!

"Jujitsu" security guard: The men's bathroom is gonna be closed for awhile. It's like a kiddie pool in there.

Do you have any books about sociology?
Really she is looking for a particular book, but she doesn't know anything about it at all, so, surprise, surprise, I can't figure out what it is and she gets mad.

A man stops by to say: "That was amazing! Did you know you can find any song in the world on Youtube?!"

On of my least favorite patrons, who is always doing school assignments but never brings the actual assignment with him and has so so SO much trouble articulating what he wants: "I need a book that will tell me how to make a personal profile. You know, it tells who you are, your career, what is good, you tell it to your company." He goes on and on and on, eventually gives up and takes a resume book that includes info about how to write an objectives statement, no one is happy.

Hi, I'm trying to call Comcast? Infinity?

Can you tell me [the time of] the sunset and sunrise today?

I need the book for the GED...oh, I didn't realize you would have more than one.

Jerry Springer

One of my favorite regulars, Mr. Timmons, stopped by the desk to tell us that the men's bathroom in the basement was flooding. "It's like a tsunami in there! I should have just gotten out my surfboard. You ladies take care now, have a calm afternoon...I don't even watch Jerry Springer; why would I when I am living it?" and he proceeded to tell us also about a big fight between two women at the bus station a block away--"it was so loud I'm surprised you didn't hear it up here." Apparently one shouted at the other, "You are only mad because I am f***ing your man!"

As Mr. Timmons said, we are kind of living Jerry Springer here at the Downtown Branch. This kind of drama happens so often that maybe I will give it its own tag...

A classic(al) reference question

The old-timer reference librarians at the Downtown branch love questions like today's, which of course came in over the phone (all the most challenging ones seem to): "How big are Olympic medals and how much do they weigh?"

I will send a free book to anyone who can find a credible source for the average weight and diameter of all medals in modern Olympic history within less than a half hour of searching, because I don't think I could.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Today a couple of teachers brought in their class to learn how to use the public library. The students were older, mostly late teens, and I could tell that it was some kind of life skills course. I really enjoy it when those classes come to the library because I'm flattered that the instructors think that using the library is an important life skill. Also, the students are usually very nice and polite. Even though they have a lot of impairments so it can sometimes be difficult for us to communicate, they nearly always are very patient and don't get upset. My favorite student this morning wanted a computer pass. He had to be prompted by the teacher to tell me what he wanted, but first he asked me what my name was and shook my hand. After I gave him the pass he said, "Hello, sir! What is your name?" so I introduced myself again and shook his hand again.

Another guy who I liked came to try to check out his magazines (a lot of people think you can check out at the information desk, it is common). He also had two driver's ed booklets from our display of public information--fliers, free local newspapers, etc. I told him he could check out his magazines at the "Checkout/customer service" desk and he said, pointing to the driver's ed booklets, "But I can take these, though, right? They're free, I'm not stealing them?"

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Kids with wallets containing nothing but some coins and a library card.

Friday, January 16, 2015


The new security guard training the even newer security guard came out of the elevator, pointed at me, and said to his trainee: "I don't even know why they need us up here. She has a black belt in jujitsu. She can karate chop a patron like that."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The library: just how obsolete?

If you are a reader of this blog, you probably like libraries and maybe even (gasp) use a library yourself. You might not be aware that many, many people, hearing the response "I'm a librarian" to "What do you do?" blurt out, "Really? I thought libraries were kind of obsolete now!"

For a bunch of obvious reasons (well, again, obvious to readers of this blog, anyway), that is not the case. However, I do admit that sometimes, sometimes, we might project an image that would encourage people to think so. Cases in point:

  • I had to tell someone that I might not be able to make her a 'book a librarian' appointment for help with Windows 8, as not a single machine at the library has that operating system on it yet.
  • At the college, I was cataloging a new book that had been published in Frankfurt. What I do there isn't real cataloging, it's called copy cataloging. That is, someone has already made an electronic record with information about the book--when it was published, its title, its author, etc.--and I just take that record and adapt it for our library. I noticed that the premade record for this book had the 'country' field set to "West Germany." I looked through the list of preset options--I could alter this to "East Germany," but not simply to "Germany." Okay, I thought, this can't possibly be happening, so I checked with my boss. Her response? "I know, just pick one. That system is not exactly up-to-date."
  • We just got a new phone at one of the information desks at the public library. It has been blinking as though it has a voicemail for two weeks, but it doesn't. Not a single person on staff can make it stop, despite many of us trying.
  • At the college library, someone brought me an 'atlas of wildlife' from 1973--"No record upon check-in." How many species have gone extinct since then!?

Mail it!

Today a young man/teenager (maybe 19ish?) came to ask me: "Can you help me? What do I write on this? I want to mail it to myself, but I've never mailed anything before."

I thought this was going to be a challenge, because he brought me one of these 'interdepartmental delivery' envelopes common in office settings (who knows where he got it):

He was all ready to fill out date, 'deliver to,' etc. Fortunately, a simple Google image search for "usps how to address envelope" solved our problems:

I would marvel that a grown person doesn't know how to address a letter, but I used the internet to show him how, so I believe that's known technically as a 'pot and kettle' situation.