Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hello, Reference Desk?

From the Norwood, MA Daily News, this exchange between Beth Goldman, Reference Desk librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library and library IT specialist and a call-in patron:

Librarian: Good morning. Reference. How may I help you?
Caller: Hi. Is this Reference?

Librarian: Yes, sir. You have reached the Reference Desk. How may I help you?
Caller: Gee, I hope you can help me.

Librarian: I will certainly try. Tell me what you are looking for.

Caller: Well, I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but my wife told me to call.
Librarian: Great! What did your wife want?

Caller: She said you’d know what that new book is by that lady mystery writer. You know, the one everybody is reading.

Librarian: Oh, that one. Good. Ah. Would you have any idea the name of the author?

Caller: No. Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute. The lady’s name is…oh, I can’t read her writing. It’s impossible. Um…My wife said the cover of the book is a really neat picture.

Librarian: Good! Good! Good! We are narrowing this down. Why don’t I take your name and phone number and do some searching, and then I’ll call you back with some possibilities?

Another patron approaches the desk and mouths, “Can I borrow a pencil?” I nod my head yes, and mouth, “Please return it when you’re done.” Patron nods and mouths, “But of course.”

Caller: Gee, that would be terrific. But my wife went to the Cape for a girls’ weekend. You know how that is. I don’t know when I’ll be able to catch her.

Librarian: Look, I’ll put together a list of names and titles for you, and you can check with her which author it is.
Caller: You’d do that?

Librarian: I’d do that. What’s your name and phone number?

As the caller is relaying his contact information another patron comes up to the desk and asks, “Is there a bathroom on this floor?”

Librarian says: “Right around the corner.”

Caller yells into the phone: Hey, hey, that’s it! That’s the name of the book! Wow! Wow! Wow! How did you figure it out?

The book in question is, apparently, Right Around the Corner by Steven G. Traylor (2004), a work of inspirational self-help fiction. The"new book by that lady mystery writer," however, remains a mystery.

The above recalls a famous story, probably apocryphal, yet no less illustrative of the daily challenges facing the average reference desk librarian, and a librarian at the end of a long day, at the end of her rope, and in no mood for nonsense:

Caller: I’m trying to find a book, that new one, but I don’t know the title or author.

Librarian: Can you tell me anything about it that might give me a clue?

Caller: The book is red.

Librarian: All books are read.

Readers are encouraged to report their own amusing or otherwise stories from the trenches of the Reference Desk in the Comments section below: open expression may depress suicidal or homicidal ideation. Given recent cuts in library budgets in communities nationwide, anything that might dampen the flames of frustration and resentment is a good start. The thought of librarians over-the-edge and acting-out is too terrifying to contemplate.

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