Grumblings from the Reference Desk

Technology. As much as we love it, need it and are addicted to it, it has its quirks. And frustrations. And infuriations. (Is that a word? Hm. Is now. 🙂 )

Perhaps nobody is more familiar with this tempestuous territory than Reference Librarians. Ever since computer labs took over 2,000 square feet of our library floor space, librarians working the reference desks have been faced with questions like: “What’s my email password?” and “Why can’t I print all of my Google search results for ‘cat breeds’?” and “I don’t know how to use Word. Could you just type up my resume for me?”

Yes, Referene Desk workers everywhere have a love-hate thing going on with technology. And we just can’t help but hate it the most when it comes at us in the ultimate, hideous duo of telephone and computer. There’s nothing more frustrating than patrons using the Reference Desk as a computer help line…except, of course, when the patron is as stubborn as they are demanding. Then the real fun begins.

Not funny.  But true.  Maybe you have a Sad, Troubled and Confused Librarian page? Here is a call I got one day from a patron having trouble downloading an audiobook.

He: I can’t download your audiobooks.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry.  What’s happening when you try to download?

He: I click on the book to add to my cart and then I click download and then it never downloads.

Me: What message do you see when it doesn’t download?  Is there some error message?

He: No.

Me: When you click on the book to download and the download software opens, there’s no error message?

He: No.

I was confused. If there’s an error, there’s usually an error message.

Me: Open the download program now so we can check something.

He: What program is that?

Me: The program that you installed to use the audiobooks. 

I was suddenly afraid that he had not installed the program needed to download audiobooks.

Me(again): Have you downloaded and installed that software that you need for the audiobooks?

He: No. I can’t do that.

Me: Why not?

He: Because I don’t know which one to download.

Me: Oh. Well, the link is right there on the main page. What are you using now to access the site?  A PC, a Mac, or another device?

He: I have all three.

Me: Okay, but which one are you using now?

He: Why am I limited to just one?  Why can’t I use all three?

Me: Because you only need one right now.  You pick the one that matches what you’re using right now.

He: Yeah, but I have all three.  Why is the library making me choose just one?  Why are you limiting my access to these books?

Me: We’re not limiting anything.  You download the program that matches what you’re using right now to get the audiobooks. Are you saying that you have a PC, a Mac, and an iPhone all accessing the audiobooks page right now?  You’re using all three right now?  You still need to download the corresponding version to each one.

I was mad.  Sorry, does it show?

He: I don’t think I should be limited to just one.

Me: Until you choose one of the three formats to download, I can’t help you.  Pick one.  Install it and then I can help you.

I never heard back from him.  Either it’s my fault because I’m a mean, angry ass, or he still hasn’t made up his mind.


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4 Responses to “Grumblings from the Reference Desk”

  • Janina:

    I LOVE this story! How dare the library limit his access to audio books! 😉 Too funny…

  • That’s just delightful (to read about).

    Sounds like the patron didn’t know what you were talking about but didn’t want to admit it:

    “I know what a PC is, I think. My sister-in-law might have a Mac…But ‘another device’? Hmmm…Better pretend like I have all three.”

  • Terry:

    Actually, I think I know what the patron was saying. He wanted to be able to share the audiobook on all of his devices as he moved from one to the other for various tasks. He didn’t want to have to be limited to one format in order to listen to the audiobook. I could see how that would be frustrating compared to sharing music files across all devices. Hopefully the library world will be able to address this soon 🙂

  • Kathy:

    I had a patron ask me if ALL the book in the library were available through the audio download.

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