Monday, April 29, 2013
It goes without saying that there is never a dull moment in a public library. A reference question can either cause a librarian to go on a wold goose chase or leave one scratching their heads wondering what really is going on in a patron's mind when they asked a particular question. Let's face it anyone who has spent anytime on a reference desk will have wonderful stories that they retell over and over again about their most memorable patron. Here's a few to get a few smiles on a Monday as we start the week. As a fresh out of grad school librarian working in a mid-sized public library on a Saturday the typical reference questions are expected. Like the homework assignments on the plants or the latest book by Dean Koontz. On this particular saturday a woman in her late fifties maybe early sixties comes up to the desk and inquires about books on medical surgeries. As a young librarian eager to help, the reference interview goes as follows: Young Librarian: "Is this pertaining to patient health information, to help you decide if you want to have the surgery done?" Patron responds, "No. I want to know how to perform the surgery." Young librarian: "I see. Books of those nature are not normally found in a public library but you may want to consult a medical library. I would be more than happy to direct you to the health information center or the area where books on the human body can be found." Patron looking perplexed, " You don't have books on how to do surgery?" Young librarian, smiles and answers politely, "No I'm sorry we do not." Patron responses, "Well, I just want to do the surgery myself. I don't trust the doctor to work on my husband." With that the patron walks away. As the patron walks away, the librarian can't help but wonder who to be more sorry for, the wife or the husband. Phone calls coming into the library are a cross between the super easy to the I'm not sure why you called category. Most of the times patrons calling in are asking non reference questions such as "What time do you close?" or "When is the teen program starting?" Simple. Direct. No brainer questions right. Then there are times when patrons call in with spelling questions. Again, no brainer for the most part. Unless the patron not only questions the librarian's ability to look up a word but also the authority of the author of the dictionary. This is too weird to even make up. A man called up his local library to inquire how to spell apprentice. As all well trained librarians know, the best source to use is a Webster's dictionary. After looking up the word, the librarian then proceeds to spell the word to the patron. Patron replies, "Are you sure? That doesn't look right." The librarian quotes her source that she is using the Webster's Dictionary copyright 2010. After a brief pause, "Is he an expert in English grammar and spelling?" The librarian not knowing if this is a prank or not, reassures the patron that Webster has been established as "the source" on spelling since the beginnings of American's history. The man then replies, "Well there must have been a typo in the printing of this dictionary that no one caught, because he got it wrong. You may want to find another dictionary to buy next time, He probably got other words wrong too." With that he hung up. Hmm. Poor Daniel Webster, he's been dissed and can't even defend his work! Last but certainly not least of the examples here, is a story of a child who loved her library so much that she didn't want to leave. After a story time, a little girl and her mother go to the children's room to browse through the stacks to find books to take home. After about twenty minutes, the mother informs her daughter that they have to leave. The little girl looks up and says, "but I'm reading a book." The mother responds that they can check out the book and the girl can continue reading it at home. "No." says the little girl and continues to read her book. The mother decides a couple of more minutes at the library will not hurt anything, so she informs her daughter that she is going to look for a book for herself. When she returns the little girl should be ready to leave. The girl does not even look up and acknowledges what her mother has just said. She continues to read and looks totally absorbed in the story. The mother than leaves the room and after fifteen minutes she returns to find her daughter right where she left her. Busy with her nose in the book. "Honey, it's time to go." she gently nudges her daughter, to which the daughter responds, "Nope. Not ready. I need to finish this book." Mother clearly getting a little upset, " Don't be impossible. You can check out that book and finnish it at home." To which the girl replies, "But I don't have a library at home and it's the best place for me to read." The mother pauses and says, "Well, you can pretend you have a library at home and read in your bedroom where it's nice and quiet." Without blinking an eye the daughter says, "In my bedroom I sleep. In the library I read. You just want me to nap instead of reading." The girl continues on with reading her book. The mother uses one last attempt to reason with her daughter before she is forced to close the book and pick up her daughter, forcing her to leave. "If you don't get up right now, I'm going to leave you here all alone." the girl with big blue eyes, finally takes her eyes off her book, and says "Go ahead. I'm safe here with plenty of books to read." With that last statement, the mother takes the book for the child, puts it in her library bag to check out and picks up a the girl who is now wailing and letting everyone within the library know, "I LOVE MY BOKKS! I WANT MY BOOKS" Aw, if only that could be captured in a PSA for libraries! Everyday there is something new to talk about in the library. What makes libraries wonderful are the patrons who visit them on a regular bases. Without them, the libraries' story would not be interesting or inviting. Perhaps, the American Library Association should promote a National Library Patron Appreciation Day. AFter all without them, libraries would have no reason to exist.
Labels: American Library Association, Patrons reference questions reference interview children reading surgical surgery Webster dictionary