Posts Tagged ‘Reference Desk Interactions’
This Story of the Week is officially one of our all-time favorites. When this one was submitted, Merry laughed out loud–and received a few glares from patrons. Stories like this one are the reason The Merry Librarian exists…and why she’s so merry! Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we did…
I sympathize with the librarian in “Lost in Translation” who was asked to translate Mayan hieroglyphics into Egyptian hieroglyphics and so forth. My previous organization produced a commemorative poster of Gerardus Mercator (1512 – 1594), the famous cartographer, and it included an old woodcut with a Latin inscription surrounding the image. A woman called up our public inquiries center and asked for a translation of the Latin. Her telephone call was referred to me in the library.
Since we had produced the poster, I went ahead and–after a great deal of difficulty, an old Latin dictionary and some schoolboy church Latin–I was able to call her back and say the inscription more or less said, “Here is the great Mercator, in his study, surrounded by all his instruments.”
The woman was obviously heart broken and began sobbing.
When I asked her why she was upset, she stated that she thought it was a coded message from Mercator to her, through all the centuries. She was so disappointed that it wasn’t a love note addressed specifically to her from the famous man. She knew he loved her.
Cue the theme from the old Twilight Zone TV series.
Well, I ruined her day. But she sure made mine!
Send us your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Sadly, we have very little to post for you today. The fact of the matter is…we’ve run out of stories! At least, we’ve run out of your stories. Luckily, Merry is not just a pretty face…she spends most of her days behind the desk at her own library. So here are a few strange encounters from Merry herself.
Hurry and send in your stories today! As you can tell, we need your submissions!
A few weeks ago a young woman came up to my desk and said,
“Excuse me, but where are the, like, umm…the normal books? You know, the books normal people read?”
I was a little confused, since I work at a public library and we have all types of books and patrons.
“Do you mean fiction books–like novels, mysteries, and that sort of thing–or non-fiction books–like biographies? Or something else?”
She stared at me for a moment. “I mean, like, you know. The normal books.”
Ah, yes. Very helpful.
“Well,” I said, feeling a bit ill-equipped for this one, “I would be happy to show you to our fiction section. We also have a section of New Books, where you might find the more recent NY Times best-sellers.”
“Yes! That’s what I want! The normal books on the NY Times list.”
I led her to our New Book section and couldn’t help but chuckle as I walked away. Who knew the NY Times best-seller list was just for “normal” people?
My library district recently underwent a major change in technology. Instead of using the bar-code system, we are now proudly using RFID technology in all of our material. The change has been great–but it was certainly not easy to implement.
In order to accomplish this daunting task, branches throughout our district closed on a rolling basis for one week at a time. As it happens, our branch was closed during tax week. Though this would be a slight inconvenience to our patrons, it was absolutely necessary for our successful conversion to the new system, and had been planned, advertised and prepared for for many, many months.
About two days before the closure was to take affect, a well-meaning patron approached me at the desk.
“I see you’re going to be closed next week,” he said, holding up one of our flyers.
“Yes,we are. We are converting our collection to a new technology.”
“Don’t you think the timing is bad? Could I suggest you wait until after tax week? It will be very hard for people to get their taxes done if you’re closed.”
“Well, sir,” I said, “we’ve been planning this closure for a long time now, and have advertised it to the best of our abilities. Every other branch will be open during the week, so you are welcome to use one of the other locations.”
He shook his head. “I’d rather use this one. I don’t understand how you can prioritize library things over tax day.”
“You are welcome to use our computers now to do your taxes if you’d like,” I suggested.
He laughed. “Are you kidding? I never do my taxes until tax day! That’s why I can’t believe you won’t reschedule this RFID thing.”
The conversation continued in this fashion for a few more minutes before he finally realized that he couldn’t talk me (and subsequently the library district…because I’m that powerful…) into rescheduling our district-wide closure calendar to suit his needs. Ah, well. The library can only go so far, I guess.
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It’s not surprising to interact with patrons who have never read Shakespeare, or even a few who haven’t heard of him. It’s also understandable when people dismiss the bard as “boring” or difficult to understand. Hey, we all have our preferences. This week’s Reference Desk Interaction made us smile because of the unique nature of one patron’s Shakespearean fluency…or lack there of.
This happened in the late 1990s, in the small-town Connecticut library I still work at, when I was first starting out as a library assistant. One afternoon a young woman came in very dressed up, wearing a fur coat and lots of expensive jewelry. (Most of our patrons show up in jeans or what they wore to work that day.) She came to the desk and asked where she could find the Shakespeare books. I took her to the place in the stacks and pulled the ‘Complete Works’ and handed it to her. She opened the book, looked at it for a few seconds, and then asked me if we had it in English. I couldn’t say anything for a few beats, and finally told her gently that it was in English, and that we had Cliff notes and the film versions if she needed them. She ended up taking these things, and told me that her boyfriend was taking her to a dinner party and they would all be talking about the new Shakespeare movie that was out. She felt she needed to prepare because she ‘didn’t know any Shakespeare’.
I am not a literature snob by any stretch. I read everything including cozy mysteries, graphic novels, SF, YA lit, etc. But for someone around my own age to not have any knowledge of literature taught in every high school was amazing to me! It opened my eyes to the fact that social class has nothing to do with education.
~“Amber” Connecticut, USA