Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reference Question of the Day: Google versus Reference Books

Patron: do you have a book on superstitions?

Ref Lib: do you have a specific kind of superstition in mind? (We professionals are carefully trained not to say, "yuh, who wants ta know?")

Patron: yes, I want to know what this silver charm on my watch means; a friend gave it to me.

Patron: shows silver Italian horn charm.

Ref Lib: recognizes the charm as commonly made in coral and thinks it has something to do with guarding against the malocchio, which affliction she recalls hearing about as a child, not that anyone in her family has it.

Answer: after Googling "Italian horn," - it wards off bad luck/the evil eye

Old way of answering question: wade through superstition and foklore books (we tried this after Googling just to compare results) which took a few more minutes than Googling and required moving away from the Reference Desk computer. (Aack!) (Note: Studies now show that Ref librarians losing muscle mass, in all but keyboarding fingers, at alarming rate.*)

So if you are thinking of becoming a reference librarian, you should realize that every bit of seemingly useless trivia and every one of life's little moments will eventually turn out to be useful in your job. Realize also, you aspiring librarians, that there will never be a cool TV show about librarians: we don't deal in life and death, we don't wear cool scrubs and stethoscopes, we don't stride up and down in front of a riveted jury, we don't deal with funny high school students (well, we do, but not in a classroom setting) we just answer questions. And sometime participate in book cart drill teams for fun.

*made-up information just to illustrate notion that blogs may contain ridiculous blather.

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