Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Monday at the Reference Desk: a Digression

At the Reference Desk: "But I digress"

A colleague of mine and I have noticed that we often wander from topic to topic, and have taken to saying,
"But I  digress" with a laugh to get ourselves back on topic after wandering around a bit into the weeds of arcana. (Ok, what are the weeds of arcana? But I digress.) Often the original topic or project eludes us after a while. Is this a hazard of being a reference librarian? Here is a typical day on the Reference Desk. The 'research librarians,' as we are sometimes called, specialize in being generalists. (Is that possible, a specialized generalist?)  Anyway, because anyone can ask us anything and often do, our days probably encourage this flexible habit of mind. (Flexible habit of mind, right LOL, some days we are just confused by all these digressions.)

Q: (Patron walks in with a tablet in hand) I heard that I can download books from the library to this. Can you show me? I am going on vacation and want to load my tablet up with books.
A:  Yes, let's have a seat and get you started. What kind of tablet is that? A rare Android. Aha. (I have an iPad so this is slightly foreign territory, but we persevere.) ( I  try not to think of Rara Avis which pops  to mind at the sight of his battered Android tablet.)
Twenty minutes later the patron is up and running with the Overdrive App, able to find books on eLibraryNJ and to download them to his tablet. Go to our 'All Things E' page to find the library's many downloadable resources. Patron is happy the books are free to borrow and are never overdue. I point out Project Gutenberg to him because he likes old, out of copyright, titles. Not a digression, but pertinent, right?

Q: Do you have a certain very popular title available for me to take on vacation tomorrow?
A: That very popular title is out, but it is available on eLibraryNJ one of our online resources for downloading books.
Repeat the lesson above, but without the tablet. Patron goes home with our downloadable tip sheet in hand with our phone number and reference email address in case she has more questions. We answer techie questions on the phone or by email. My hand waving/gesturing communication style does not work at all on those non-synchronous and impersonal mediums, but "needs must.' (Huh? I can't talk with my hands by email, is what I mean.)

Q: Where are the summer reading books for Governor Livingston High School?
A: Over here.... (Librarian resists impulse to say 'walk this way'  like Igor in 'Young Frankenstein...')
Librarian and student walk over to the summer reading area and talk about which books would be most fun/shortest/least awful to read.Let's face it, it is almost August and no one wants to read 'War and Peace' or 'Moby Dick' by Labor Day. No, those tomes are not on the local reading list.

Q: Where are the summer reading books?
A: (see above)
Hmmmm - questions are coming in two by two today. (It's a Noah's Ark day, but I digress.)

Q:  Publicist calls from local free paper and asks if he can take our events off our website and put them in the paper?
A: Yes! And we send you press releases too...

Q: Patron wants to know where local sandwich places are so he can take a break from studying.
A: OK, so I wave my hands a lot when I give directions to the 3 places near the railroad station and the sub shop.
Follow-up Q: Can I leave my stuff here while I run out for coffee and sustenance? (OK, he did not say sustenance.)
A: Well, sort of, but be sure to be back by closing time and we can't keep a close eye on your things, so don't leave your laptop etc.

Q: Do you have a thumb drive I can borrow?

Reference Desk Gargoyle
A: Yes, we keep a spare USB drive at the Reference desk. (We thought about attaching it to a giant thing to remind people to return it, but we ended up just attaching a (now) ratty piece of paper to it, saying it was for patron use. So far, it keeps coming home to us. We also toyed with the idea of using a gargoyle keychain, but I digress.)

Q: Can you find dryer reviews in Consumer Reports?
A: Yes, the back of the latest issue has an index and the yearly buying guide has the information too. (Suiting action to words, librarian produces CR reports on clothes dryers.) Patron and librarian bemoan the problems of mold in front-loading dryers, but I di.....)

Q: Why is your children's program listed as being at 10:30 pm?
Updating the Kids Page View
A: Because I miss-typed on the website. Whoops! (thanks to all you sharp-eyed readers for letting us know about typos and omissions on our website. Call or email the reference desk. Not to be defensive, but I update the website while people ask me about sandwiches and dryer reviews and summer reading... wait, what was the question?)

And finally,
Q: Do you have audiobooks of Oprah's Book Club selections?
A: Follow this link to Best Sellers and Award Winners that lists Oprah books and link directly into our catalog. (Full disclosure, Lisa, remembered this link on our website, so two head are always better than one when answering questions, even though two people can lead to digressions at times.)

More reference questions can be found in these posts:
Typical Questions 
Reference Questions Roundup
One Day at the Reference Desk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can testify to Anne's need to wave her hands around while talking. Staff is in danger of flying fingers even when Anne is using the telephone. Hard hats and goggles may become mandatory. sb