Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Directional questions, Answering

Reference librarians should never admit that a large percentage of their work days are spent telling people how to get to their library's restrooms.

20 comments:

Former College Library Guy said...

Hey, a request for information is still a request for information. It gets counted in the reference desk statistics. The specific question (bathroom, copier jam, stapler, highlighter, 3-hole punch, and so on) doesn't matter so much at that point.

Alison said...

What if your directional questions are mainly "Where are the printers" because no one can see the "copy room" sign that is hidden behind a building support? (And also does not indicate that the printers are in the copy room . . . )

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Just past the giraffe...

Isn't that where they are in your library?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, "Where is the reference desk?"

And that was before admin started renaming the ref. desk.

Anonymous said...

How about "do you have change?"

f is for Fer; he forgot to floss said...

No no, we're librarians -- we fear change. We don't have any ourselves (certainly not on these salaries).

Giraffes and directions to the head, on the other hand, we are in stock. How may we help you...?

Anonymous said...

OK, how about "can I use your phone?"

Anonymous said...

"Can I use your phone?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because"

"Because why?"

"Because it's not your phone."

"Can I use your phone?"

"The payphone is one block away and the bank is two blocks away."

Anonymous said...

How about:

"Where is the photocopier?"

"Do you mean the printer?"

"Yes..yes..the printer"

"Did you mean photocopier or printer?"

"Oh yes. where is the photocopier?!"

"Both of them are upstairs"

"Which stairs?"

"The stairs in front of you"

"Oh."

"Thank YOU..."

Anonymous said...

How about: "Is the copier working today?" Sometimes I want to say: " No, it's on vacation this week."

Conflicted Librarian said...

To answer "where is the bathroom?" you've got basically 2 choices in my experience:

1. discretely answer in your best shushing librarian whisper, with maybe a quick head nod in the proper direction; Or

2. Stand up. Use very large arm motions to semaphore the directions while speaking in an almost outside voice. This way everybody in hearing or sight range knows where your patron is heading, takes note, and is then less likely to bother your other important work to ask 'where's the bathroom.'

Your choice. Choose wisely.

Anonymous said...

I got a good one the other day...

"what time is supper?"

Anonymous said...

How about "How do I get upstairs?"
My husband suggested that I respond, "How are your rope climbing skills?" Seriously, is it that hard for them to figure out where to find our four stairwells and elevator on their own?

quicksilver said...

Anon. 7:28 AM:

What time is supper? What did you say?!

Anonymous said...

Haha, when I worked on desk I used to aaaaalways get questions about the bathrooms.

Though, my favorite one had to be, "Do you know the men's room is flooding?"
To which I tended to respond, "Yeah, it does that sometimes."

Only, I didn't realize that this time (yes, it really did happen a lot) there was water gushing from a burst pipe in the ceiling and cascading down like a waterfall.

Yeah...

Bec said...

This post highlights exactly why I've never thought reference librarianship was something to which one should aspire. More like punishment.

x said...

but as someone with a tiny bladder and a love for libraries, i appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I just did that earlier today and now I am embarrassed. At least I did look at the floor plan near the elevator beforehand, and no bathroom was indicated.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

My reference librarian colleagues and I came up with a top 3 best questions we have every been personally asked.

#3 - Pregnant cat.

Patron: Is there someone called Maureen works here?

Me: No

Patron: Its just that the lady at the careers place gave me your number and said Maureen adopts cats.

Me: I don't know who Maureen is.
Patron: Do you like cats?

Me: Yes. Would you like me to find you the number for the local cat protection League?

Patron: Will you adopt my pregnant cat (holds up cage containing pregnant cat)

Me: No. Here are some numbers for charities that will help.
Patron: Can I use your phone?

Me: No.

Patron: But why?

Me: because its not a public phone. Don't you have a mobile?

Patron: I don't have any credit. I don;t have any money for credit, or for a phone box and I can't go home because my mum won't let the cat in the house. [please note patron looked approximately 30]The vet said the cat's actually in slow labour. It's waters have broken.

Me: Fine use the phone.


#2 - Burial plans

Patron: I don't want to be buried when I die.

Me: ok. (pause) Do you need information about alternate funeral plans?

Patron: No, I want to donate my body to medical science

Me: ok, plase take a seat and I'll see if I can find some information about that. It may take a few minutes because I'm not immediately sure where to look.

Patron: Are you not going to find me the number for the Calderdale and Kirklees NHS Trust?

Me: Well, I'm not sure they're who you need to speak to about this.

Patron: (pause). Can you get me their number.

Me: Sure. Their website is down and ourt directory we only have last year's directory so let me just call the number to make sure its correct. [I call the number and get through to the general hospital enquiries desk].

Patron: Can I speak to them?

Me: Well I'll give you the number and you can give them a call when you get home.

NHS helpline person: I can soeak to him now.

Me [to NHS helpline person]: yes, but...

NHS helpline person: Why don't you put the customer on the line.

Me [to NHS helpline person: *sigh* ok. This is a very interesting enquiry.

[Patron and NHS helpline person talk for 30 minutes!!]

[I retrieve phone and wipe it with antibacterial wipes]


#1 - Strippergram

Patron: I want to become a stripper. How do I go about that.

Me: We have a careers database I can consult for you.

Patron: I think I'd be very successful. I've only got one leg. Niche market.




Can anyone better that?