Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A question I wish I'd gotten

What if a patron comes up to the desk and says: “I just need to find out what temperature would be dangerously cold for a Chinese crested hairless dog!”? Find out how you should answer by reading this BookList Online anecdote:http://www.booklistonline.com/ProductInfo.aspx?pid=7707182&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Sunday, August 16, 2015

They told me you know how to work these machines...

said an older woman with brown hair. I never say "yes" to this because you never know if it's a website outside of your control or something else, so all I said is, "Let me see what I can do to help. What is it doing or not doing?"

"It's doing something not kosher!"

Turns out her husband was being asked by some online account of his to do one of those 'prove you're not a spambot by identifying which of these pictures has a horse in it' tests in order to log in, and he was alarmed and confused.

In other news, our new security guard told a guy with an apple at the computer with him that he had to put it away because the library has a no food policy. The man responded, "I'm not eating it!" and the security guard calmly repeated, "You need to put it away, sir." So the man flung the apple as hard as he could into a trash can.

And, in news you can use, a reference question caused me to find out that a law called The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the big three credit reporting bureaus to provide consumers with free copies of their credit reports once a year. If you want to get yours, start at this .gov website to make sure you're going to the real source: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports (A modern reference librarian's favorite question: "How can I tell if this website is trustworthy?")

Other questions I fielded today:

What is in between the regular shelves and the hold shelf? I think my books are there.

How much money is a roll of nickels? (Follow-up questions: "That's all!?...Where is the nearest ATM?)

Man registering on a website he hasn't previously use: How do I know what my password is?

What language do they speak in the U.K.? Old English?

I also eavesdropped a woman about my age commenting to a stranger in the elevator: "This library is really old!"

Friday, August 7, 2015

We had a Minecraft program tonight...

..and two little girls in pink flower-patterned leggings kicked everyone's asses.

Sugar pills

Today one of our regulars stopped by the desk to inform me that 'the mouse is bad' on computer #3. I told him I would 'look into it' but all I did was wiggle it around (it seemed fine) and then unplug it and plug it back in. We get a lot of hardware complains that turn out to be user error somehow--they say the keyboard is broken because they're using the number pad without number lock turned on, their lack of experience with a mouse explains why the cursor is just shooting madly around the screen, etc.

Similarly, I have also asked patrons to 'please try it one more time so I can see the error message' knowing that the reason they can't get into the public computer/their email account/their library account is almost certainly that they made a typo in their login information. This one I do almost daily, actually.

My first instinct when I hear that something is "broken" or "won't let me in" is that the patron is wrong. That said, I don't want them to feel like I'm not taking their problem seriously, so I have to make up a way to make them feel like I'm addressing a problem that doesn't actually need to be addressed. It's sort of like a doctor giving a patient a sugar pill so that they will feel like they are being treated and get better--the classic 'placebo effect.'

This even happens with non-technology things. I also do searches for things I know I can't find or won't be available, because patrons want to see you doing that, and don't want to be told "This is not something that will be available." Recently, I did a search for books on 'free grants from the government' on our shared regional catalog, just to prove to the patron that there would be nothing because I knew he wouldn't take my word for it. I also frequently make searches for the personal contact information of celebrities rather than just saying "This person is a celebrity. Her personal cell phone number will not be something I can find." These searches, looking at things from a purely rational standpoint, are a waste of both their time and mine. I've been told that my job is to 'help' patrons, but does that mean wasting their time in a fruitless search or telling them, when they are unlikely to believe me and likely to get angry, that the search is fruitless? For better or worse, I usually go with the former.

I wonder whether doctors ever give patients sugar pills not to actually change the patient's state, but simply to preserve their relationship with the patient. They, like me, probably want the patient to feel like they are 'helping' even when no help is needed or possible.