Posts Tagged ‘reference questions’
Happy Thanksgiving week to our readers in the United States! (To those of you elsewhere, we hope you enjoy your average, run-of-the-mill Thursday this week. )
The holidays are all about two things: food and family. While our Story of the Week this week isn’t exactly food-based (unless you are one of our cannible readers…we certainly don’t want to exclude you!), this story does resonate with something every family has in common: miscommunication. Turns out librarians get confused, too. (But only occasionally…right?)
So grab a drumstick (or perhaps a “tofurkey” stick?), kick back in front of the game, and give thanks for the fact that you aren’t working the Reference Desk today!
This was the ultimate in miscommunication for me!
A patron called the reference desk and said,”Honey can you give me the number for the body parts store?”
My son was currently taking courses in auto body repair, so I thought I could cover this one. I grabbed the Pittsburgh yellow pages and replied:
“Would that be for a foreign or a domestic car ma’am?”
She replied, “No, no honey. You know, the body parts store. Where they got the kidneys and livers and such!”
She wanted the phone number for the organ donor bank, which I was able to give her before I broke up laughing.
Do you have a giblet or two you’d like to share? (We’re talking stories, not turkeys here…) Send us your stories and you could be featured on the site!
Submit your library stories to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Well, we didn’t actually plan it this way (though we clearly should have), but apparently November is officially “Reference Desk Interactions Month.” Let’s face it: the best laugh-out-loud stories happen at the Reference Desk. There’s just no way around it. And so, we proudly continue the theme this week with these fabulous stories–submitted, as it were, by the same person. Sounds like life in “Jedi’s” library is funnier than a drunken Yoda impersonation!
One (thankfully) quiet night on the desk, I received a call from a man with a low, husky voice. He was calling to ask if I had heard about a book that was going to be coming out on the conspiracy between the police and the African Americans. Inwardly rolling my eyes, I told him that no, I had not heard of this book. Did he want to request it? What was the title? Trying to sound scholarly, the man continued to describe the conspiracy and confided that he was actually writing the book himself, and doing extensive research. He was so passionate about his subject that I had a hard time getting him off the phone once I realized he didn’t need anything from me. The conversation got crazier and crazier until I heard a thump in the background on his end, and his already low voice dropped to a whisper. “Um, I have to go. My parents are home.
As a brand new librarian, I was still in the “can be shocked” category, and this one was a doozy. A phone call came in to the reference desk, and a very ‘normal’ sounding male apologized and said he had a sensitive subject he was doing research on. It was for a paper, he said. He hemmed and hawed around a while before finally stumbling out with the topic of his study: Which nationality of men have the longest penis? Other librarians have since said they would have hung up on him, but newly minted as I was, I was determined to treat it as seriously as the patron appeared to be. And you know what? There actually are studies to cite on this subject, and I found a few of them. The ensuing conversation was necessarily vague, since I was at a busy reference desk. To the eavesdropping patron I might have been answering a question on the typical size of vegetables around the world. This call was five years ago, and I’m sorry to say I don’t remember which nationality was the winner. And I don’t have the heart to search again.
Thank you, “Jedi,” for your stories!
Do you have a crazy reference question story to tell? Submit them to Merry and you could be featured on our site!
Submit your stories at email@example.com!
We love getting emails about wild and wacky reference questions. Plenty of weird questions come up at the reference desk, but it seems like the most bizarre (and generally more personal) questions are asked over the phone. Perhaps patrons prefer the anonymity of a phone call. Or maybe they are just trying to harass us. Who knows. What we do know, however, is that outrageous reference questions are excellent fodder for Merry Librarian articles! So, thank you to our faithful readers who have sent in these stories. Keep ‘em coming!
“A few years ago, when I was still fresh to the reference librarian position, I received a phone call from a man needing a quick definition to a word. Thinking this was going to be an easy question, I picked up the phone line and asked for the word he needed defined. He informed me that the word he needed was “gay”. I read off the first few definitions that refer to happiness and merriment. He quickly stated that those were not the definition he required. I continued reading and read the definition referring to homosexuality. He said that was the one he needed but since the definition was rather vague (“one who practices homosexuality”) I offered to read the definition to “homosexuality”. After doing so, the man went on to explain that he had recently received a gift for his birthday of an “adult” nature (in the phone call he actually described the device) and then asked me if, since he enjoyed using the toy so much by himself, he was a homosexual. Honestly, I was a little blown out of the water. But I retained my composure and stated that I couldn’t answer, and that the decision, and how he interpreted the definition, ultimately lay in his hands.
This happened to an unflappable colleague working the reference desk. I overheard the call, asked what it was about; and when she repeated it to me, I laughed so loud I drew stares.
Librarian (answering phone) : Reference and Information Services.
Male caller: Are you wearing a bra?
Librarian: Yes. Are you?
Male caller stammers and hangs up.
If only he knew we have caller ID…