Friday, May 1, 2015

Case Study No. 1931: "Questions asked of librarians"

Humor: Questions Asked of Librarians
The following have all been asked of library reference desk workers in the USA and Canada.
Tags: Librarian Library Library reference desk Library patron comedy humor funny comic books questions
Added: 1 year ago
From: Somethin Else
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Part 1: Actual reference queries reported by American and Canadian library reference desk workers of various levels.

* Do you have books here?

* Do you have a list of all the books written in the English language?

* Do you have a list of all the books I've ever read?

* I'm looking for Robert James Waller's book, Waltzing through Grand Rapids. (Actual title wanted: Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend.)

* Do you have that book by Rushdie: Satanic Nurses? (Actual title: Satanic Verses)

* "Where is the reference desk?" This was asked of a person sitting at a desk who had hanging above her head a sign saying "REFERENCE DESK"!

* I was here about three weeks ago looking at a cookbook that cost $39.95. Do you know which one it is?

* Which outlets in the library are appropriate for my hairdryer?

* Can you tell me why so many famous Civil War battles were fought on National Park Sites?

* Do you have any books with photographs of dinosaurs?

* I need a color photograph of George Washington [Christopher Columbus, King Arthur, Moses, Socrates, etc.]

* I need a photocopy of Booker T. Washington's birth certificate.

* I need to find out Ibid's first name for my bibliography.

* Why don't you have any books by Ibid? He's written a lot of important stuff.

* I'm looking for information on carpal tunnel syndrome. I think I'm having trouble with it in my neck.

* "Is the basement upstairs?" (Asked at First Floor Reference Desk)

* I am looking for a list of laws that I can break that would send me back to jail for a couple of months.

Part 2: Actual Reference Interviews reported by American and Canadian library reference desk workers of various levels.

Patron: I'm looking for a book.
Mental answer 1: Well, you're in the right place.
Mental answer 2: Here's one. (Hand over nearest volume.)
Audible answer : Can you be a little more specific?

Patron: I got a quote from a book I turned in last week but I forgot to write down the author and title. It's big and red and I found it on the top shelf. Can you find it for me?
Mental answer: Books classified by color are shelved downstairs in the [non-existent] third sub-basement.
Audible answer: What were you looking for when you found the book the first time?

In an art library:
Patron: Do you have any books on Art?
Ref: Yes. Did you have a certain artist in mind, or a period or style in mind?
Patron: No.
Ref: I guess you'll have to look through our 120,000 books and see if you find anything.
Patron: OK.

Patron: Do you have anything good to read?
Reference person getting her audible and mental answers mixed up: No, ma'am. I'm afraid we have 75,000 books, and they're all duds.

Telephone patron: Do you have books on leaves?
Library worker: Nope, we keep them on shelves.
(She then hung up. Can you tell she's not too fond of Reference duty?)

Caller: I have a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. It's all blue with swirly stars on it. Can you tell me where I can get it appraised?
Ref.: Sir, does it say 'Metropolitan Museum of Art' on the bottom? It does? Well, what you have there is a poster that they sell in the gift shop. I think they're about $10.00.

Patron: I am looking for a globe of the earth.
Ref: We have a table-top model over here.
Patron: No, that's not good enough. Don't you have a life size?
Ref (after a short pause): Yes, but it's in use right now!

Student: Do you have any regular magazines here, or just periodicals?
Ref: Well, what do you mean by regular magazines?
Student: You know, Vogue, Seventeen ...
Ref: If we had those magazines, you would find them listed in our Serials Holdings List, alphabetically by title, and could get the call numbers to look them up. I don't think we have those titles, though.
Student goes to check, but soon reappears:
I didn't see them listed. Where will I find them?
Ref: If they're not in the list, that means we don't have them here.
Student: Then where do you have them?
(Fortunately, good sense got the better of the Library Worker that day, and he patiently continued to explain that they did not have any copies of Vogue or Seventeen at all.)

This happened in the late 1980's:
Student: Do you still have that great book on current economics? My sister went here in 1972 and you had it then. It is yellow if that helps.
Ref: Anything on 'current economics' from 1972 would be outdated. Would you like to see something else?
Student: Nope, I want the yellow one 'cause my sister said it explained the current situation so well.
She left empty handed, despite continued attempts to get her to take something published more recently.

Patron: I need the book with the picture of the building on the front.
Ref: Sir, we have only Government Documents. Almost all of the books have the picture of a building on the front. What type of information do you need?
Patron: It is a book with tables in it.
Ref: What are you trying to find in the tables?
Patron: In the front there is a map that I was using.
It came about that he needed the U.S. Statistical Abstracts which that year had a map with the Congressional districts in it.

Patron: Do you have a book with numbers in it?
Mental answers left to your imagination.
Actual information needed: International statistics on 5 areas of 5 different countries for comparison purposes.

Patron: I have to write a two-page paper on the Civil War, can you help?
Ref: What aspect of the war interests you?
Patron: What aspect? You mean I have to choose something in particular about it? I thought I'd just write about the whole thing.

In the 'no common ground available' department, I was working at a state library agency and took a reference call from the head of a state agency who wanted me to find medical information on the reproductive compatibility of humans and aliens. I clarified several times, unable to believe that someone in charge of a portion of my tax dollars was actually asking what I was hearing him asking. He was extremely matter-of-fact about it.
I did feel duty-bound to let him know that the medical establishment as a whole is skeptical about the existence of extraterrestrials, so I was not hopeful about finding much. "That's okay," he said. "It's understandable since the government has censored most of the information about them. Try the Internet." Well, I did, and found plenty of anecdotal (to use the polite term) information. To be thorough, I also did a MEDLINE search, with predictable results (none).
When I called him back, I hoped he'd laugh and say he was impressed with my diligence in following through on such a ludicrous question, or at least say he had suspected there wouldn't be any information about it. Instead he was disappointed. Turns out he was preparing examples for a lecture he was giving on how yesterday's science fiction has become today's science fact. I never did find out what the other examples were...and I'm not sure I want to know!

Patron: I want information on time machines.
Me: Are you looking for H.G. Wells story The Time Machine?
Patron: No, just information on time how to build them and all.
Me: Are you doing a paper for a class? What kind of information are you trying to find?
Patron: We saw that movie, Back to the Future, and my husband's really good at building things, so he wanted me to get a copy of the plans so he could build one. He thinks he knows where that other guy went wrong.
Me: Aah...that wasn't real. There's no such thing.
Patron: Oh. Are you sure?

Three pop into my mind:
1) A student who couldn't believe we had no books by a "very famous" author. The author's name: "Wilma Catheter"
2) Someone who wanted to know if we had any copies of newspapers published on the day after Jesus was born so he could see how the event was covered.
3) Another student who had an assignment to find out who was elected President in recent elections (this was back in the early 90's)--I showed her the World Almanac with results for 1988 and 1992. She looks at me and says, "Well, what about 1989, 1990, 1991...?"

One of those mothers who come in to get the books for their childrens' assignments (grrrrr!) said that her son had to do an assignment on the invention of television, so she wanted a book on the inventor. She knew it was Mr Sony, if I could just tell her where to look for the biographies .....

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