Thursday, October 14, 2010

Virtual Reference Question of the Week

As I have mentioned before, my library system also provides a virtual reference service that our branches take turns manning, which provides email and chat assistance. Unfortunately 95% of its users are using it incorrectly as they are either asking account questions (it says in bold that account and fee questions will not be answered in the service), or questions for services that we don't provide (such as emailing them pdf's of newspaper back editions). It looks like nobody takes time to read the virtual ref FAQ, which explains what the service is for -- ready reference questions, database assistance, readers' advisory, ebook help, etc.
That's why when we get questions in our virtual reference email I just want to smack someone:

Message Subject: Help!
Hello. I need to log into my own account at aol.

I responded, I'm not sure what you mean, could you clarify? and, of course, the email address bounced.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gems from the children's department

With some more recent staff absenses, I've found myself staffing the children's department info desk often in the last couple weeks.

A little girl approached the desk and asked if we had any books on (*deep breath*) ghosts, mysteries, but not baby mysteries, scary stories that might be true, magic, but no Harry Potter, and stories that involve vampires, but only girl vampires. She held up two books of different widths and said, "If I'm in fifth grade, how long does the book need to be?"

While I was helping one woman and her son (who was old enough to do his own report) find books for his vague American history research paper, I was irritated that the woman's other son kept jumping up and going, "Hey lady! Hey lady!"

He was maybe 5-years-old, was wearing a plaid button-down shirt, and had what looked like sticky jam and toast crumbs making a ring around his mouth. He waved his arms at me like he was trying to land an airplane, so I finally turned to him and said, "I'll be with you in just a minute," kinda giving the mom the raised eyebrow for not stepping up and telling her kid to be quiet. Then when I was finished looking up some books, the woman left with her son and I realized that jam-boy was not her other kid at all, but some random, parentless child.

He grabbed a stuffed toy dog that was sitting on the counter. The children's department staff leave lost n' found items on the desk with the theory that the original owner will see them and claim their blankie, action figure, Barbie, etc. But really what it does is make other children wild for the toy that doesn't belong to them.
"Why is this here?" Jam-boy asked, holding the stuffed dog up in the air.
"We're hoping that its owners will find it," I replied.
It looked like Jam-boy was rolling this around in his head and really thinking about it. Then he said, "Uh, I think I am going to take this."
"Don't you know you're not supposed to take other people's toys?" This came from Girl-Vampire girl, who was using the computer nearest the desk.

Defeated, Jam-boy set the stuffed dog back on the desk, but still eyeballed it. "Hey lady!" he suddenly remembered what he was there for. "Lady, can you find me books on horses, but only teeny, tiny, baby horses?" He held his hands up to show he was only interested in miniature horses no bigger than 4 inches.
"What about books on ponies?" I asked.
He thought about it, "No, just baby horses. Also books on vacuum trucks!"
"What's a vacuum truck?" I was completely baffled.
"A vacuum truck is a really, really big truck!" he informed me.

We found books on baby horses, but sadly no vacuum trucks.