I am the second-youngest librarian on staff, saved from being the youngest only by our newest staff member, who is only slightly (like, I suspect, months) younger. Usually, this works either in my favor or does not register with patrons at all. However, twice this week, while working on the desk with one of our veteran librarians, I had the patron insist on asking the “older” librarian, because she knew more.

The “older” librarian did not, in fact, know how to answer the patron’s question any better than I did, but that’s not what upset me. The problem is that the two veteran librarians on staff have, for years, cultivated the air that they are experts in their particular areas and no one else can know things the way they do. I have no problem with expertise, and consider several areas to be “my” areas, but I do not, and would never, tell a patron that I am the only one who can help them in that area. I might know more about online reference sources than my colleagues, but they also might know some resource I don’t, or, you know, they could learn!

Being told by a patron that Veteran Librarian over there is the only one who knows historical records questions is annoying and insulting, because, 1. Veteran Librarian is currently busy and so Young Snarky Librarian is the one available,  2. Young Snarky Librarian does in fact know her way around the local history room, thank you very much, and would be more than willing to help, and 3. Young Snarky Librarian also knows that Veteran Librarian just wants you and everyone else to think she’s important. And she is, but not because she hordes information.


Today I have (wrapped up a week of crazy and):

  • been reminded that telemarketers have gotten ahold of the phone number to the emergency phone in the elevator.
  • helped someone navigate through Yahoo Italy (“Does that mean log-out in English?”)
  • helped a patron look up info on a potentially antique glass bottle
  • participated in some remote reference for a friend in California about a wine from the 1970’s
  • had chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and onion rings for lunch (OMG, I know.)
  • tried to determine why specific passages of the Bible had been highlighted in blue

How do you spell “pedia”?

February 12, 2008

Today I have:

– had a patron call and say, “So I need to build a bar in my basement.”
– helped someone figure out the difference between “acclimation” and “acclamation.”
– used NoveList to figure out where a book was in a series (my favorite NoveList feature, seriously.)
– found a book a patron was desperately searching for (but could not remember anything about) using only the search terms “mango” and “sail.”
– endured a conversation about Wikipedia between a patron who had no idea what it was and a librarian who understood even less. The subject line of this post says it all.

I had this great reference question on Saturday: a patron called with the name of the book she wanted, but she only remembered the title in Spanish and that it was a novel about Saint Luke. Now, I don’t speak a word of Spanish, besides the counting I learned on Sesame Street. (For the record, I also know nothing about Saint Luke.) Browsing our catalog and then Amazon for novels about Saint Luke gave me nothing. Finally, I asked for the Spanish title (Medico de Cuerpos y Almas) and used that to get the author,  and then looked for the author in our catalog. We had three books, but none of them were about Saint Luke.  So I did a search for the author and Saint Luke on Amazon  – and there it was! Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell – of course, over the phone, this took 20 minutes – but what a great feeling when I found it! (And by found, I mean that we had to order the book through ILL.)


I also was had a real live Mac versus PC conversation with a patron, which turned out to be really, really interesting. She wanted to buy a new computer, and wanted my advice on which to buy. I did my best to give her resources about both options, but what was most interesting was  how emotional the patron was about her decision, which was only amplified by the larger, highly opinionated debate.

I also spent an awesome half-hour researching light box therapy reviews, and did lots of off-the-cuff reference, where I was essentially at a loss for where to look after I’d consulted health journals and our health database, and yet I was still coming up with more and more places to look. That always boosts my confidence, even if it’s half-casting about in the dark.

Finally, reference and baseball: A woman called to ask if we had a laminator. We do not, but I suggested she try Staples, and told her about how I had once had a picture from the newspaper laminated there. It turns out that was exactly what she needed to do. The best part: she wanted to laminate the Boston Herald cover about the Red Sox World Series win – so, yay!

Today I Have:

  • Helped a patron find out which harbor cruise organizations in the area also offered excursions up river, and discovered that one of them offers 12 hour fishing marathons.
  • Had a patron ask for help making a trench coat. I’m not sure he didn’t mean to ask for information on where to buy a trench coat, but he has a reputation of asking oddball questions. He wandered off before we could turn up anything.
  • Listened to someone get $4.90 back in dimes from the copy machine.
  • Played with the updates to the Minuteman OPAC.
  • Discovered that McGraw-Hill’s American Idiom’s Dictionary has a great keyword index. I knew there was a phrase about doing something wrong that had the word “nest” – turns out it’s “to stir up a hornet’s nest.” Which is apparently what I do every time I mention a Library 2.0 idea that regrettably  involves getting the permission of the webmaster.

Repurpose Ability

October 3, 2007

Today I have:

  1. Miraculously boiled down all my notes from the NHLA Library 2.0 to a small list of projects I think my library should work on.
  2. Come to the conclusion that using social networking tools in a library setting is about repurposing them for use in a library much in the same way that Library 2.0 is about repurposing the library itself.
  3. Delighted in introducing a patron with a readers’ advisory question to BookSlut and Trashonista (the latter of which resulted in a huge smile.)
  4. Had a patron bring in her suction-cup soap holder, hand it to me, and ask me to help her find where to buy another one.
  5. Had the Circ. Desk call up and ask if I was fluent in Spanish. (I am not, but they eventually found someone on staff who was.)
  6. Tracked down the contact info for a library in Virginia with the same name as our library, and passed it on to the patron on the phone who thought she was calling Virginia in the first place.

Today I have:

  • listened to a sales pitch for a database product it turned out the library already owned
  • worked on three wikis!
  • had a patron get upset about the fact that there were other books with the same title as the book he was looking for and was surprised this wasn’t “against the rules”
  • explained to a very willing-to-learn patron the difference between going to a web address and going to Google to find a web address, and pondered why people often think Google is a portal
  • decided, in my Herculean effort to learn to navigate print reference, to pick a section each week and browse, browse, browse

I am writing up my notes about the NHLA Library 2.0 conference, which pretty much amounts to a huge list of awesome things to explore and consider. And it turns out my library even already has a staff Flickr account, so I can post the pictures I took at the conference there. Now to encourage everyone that Flickr isn’t just for in-house sharing…