Lost in Translation

After a long silence, the Merry Librarian is back in business! As a celebration of our grand re-opening, we are featuring a story from Fountain, CO as our Story of the Week. This one proves to be yet another example of patron expectations for a librarian’s abilities. As bizarre requests go, this one is definitely a strange need for information. And we’re just curious…why is it that when a patron needs something complicated and bizarre, they always want it within 24 hours? Just curious.

“Here’s a situation I ran into yesterday that I thought you might find amusing…it falls under the “librarians should know everything about everything” assumption that much of the general public seems to have. A man walked into our branch yesterday and asked me the following questions:

“If something were translated from English into Mayan hieroglyphics into Egyptian hieroglyphics, would someone from Iran who speaks Hebrew be able to understand it?”

Umm…I’m thinking not.

“Well, then, could you translate it for me so they could understand it?”

…Why yes, of course I happen to be fluent in ALL those languages. (I am a librarian, after all.)

“Well, do you have a book that translates Mayan hieroglyphics into Egyptian hieroglyphics into Hebrew?”

I’m thinking not…but I’ll check anyway just to appease you…Nope, just as I suspected. Nothing.

“Why don’t you have any books that do that?”

I don’t think there is a book anywhere that does that.

“Well, what can you do? I need it done tonight.”

…Luckily, I it was close to the end of my shift and I was able to pass this patron along to my unsuspecting coworkers…who had no idea what they were walking into and may not be very happy next time they see me…”

– “Julia” from Fountain, CO

Submit your story to us at: submit@merrylibraian.com

4 Responses to “Lost in Translation”

  • yeng:

    I think it’s the attitude problem of users. But at the end PATIENCE is still a virtue.. hehehe grrr 🙂

  • fenny:

    Granted I’m probably not a very “good” librarian…but can’t we as librarians stop pretending that there’s maybe possibly the impossible book the patron wants sitting undiscovered in the collection we’ve built?

    We *know* when questions like this come along that there’s no way in hell such a thing exists, and yet we search anyway. We search for Harry Potter by JK Rollins though we know better, we search for Inglorius Basterds even though we know it’s still in the theaters. Can’t we just be honest for a change?

    A woman asked me for a biography of Helen of Troy. I told her that it was extremely unlikely we’d have a biography on a woman that scientists are not sure even existed. The woman said the University of Athens ought to know of a good biography–so I gave her their number. If she wants to pursue mythological creatures, she can do it on her own time.

  • Janice Hovis:

    Actually, there are quite a few biographies of Helen of Troy, who may indeed have been a real person. They are mostly speculation or they detail the life of the fictional rather than “real” person, but they do exist.

    Whenever I get a translation question, I try to find directory listings for translation services or point the patrons to Babelfish.

  • Its really nice post thanks

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