Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Morning Reference

What is the postal code for Lladro y Malli in Valencia Spain?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Action Packed Hour!

Name and address of the CEO of Best Western and Hertz car rental.
The website to locate information about inmates in CT.
Assistance photocopying green cards and passports. (green cards are tricky to photocopy!)

(It got so very busy, that I was doing triage and stopped recording reference questions.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If only more patrons were like this...

I was helping an woman (maybe in her mid-30s) this evening on an undergraduate research paper. She was writing on Haiti and needed assistance in locating articles on immigration and assimilation. I showed her some of our databases, and found her two good articles. She had some other questions about MLA and citation, so I spent some time with her showing her how to make a bibliography.

At the end of the interaction, she turned to me and said, "You know, it's amazing what you can learn in books."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What the Patron Really Wants

I am looking for the phone number of American Lawn and Garden Tools in Parkersburg, WV.

What the patron was looking for was the customer service phone number for Ames Tru Temper. When Googling info about the company, I found a release that the Parkersburg WV site was closed and all employees laid off in 2005. It reminds me to take the time with patrons, and suss out their query. I think sometimes I take their information request at face value, because of confidence or the line at the reference desk. I think somewhere in the back of my head, I am thinking: Save the time of reader, but not really saving the time of the reader if I am not fully exploring their information need.

And wouldn't you know... I am living what I am blogging. A young woman approached the desk, and asked for health related books. I could have easily pointed her to the 600s and said, "Health books are over there", but I asked her what topics she was interested in. She responded pregnancy, and again I asked her what sort of information she was looking for. She said there was a book, What to Expect When You are Expecting and she wanted to see if we had a copy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reference Questions

I am looking for a book. I think the author is Michael Pfeiffer or Michael Pfeifer, and the title might have the following words in it: Potomac River Basic Indian Artifacts.
Phone number and address for Christie's in New York.

(A woman showed me her papers and motioned to clip them together. I placed the stapler in front of her. She said, "I don't know how", so I showed her, and then said, "Okay. Now you try.")

Best orthopaedic surgeons on the East Coast, more specifically Stamford and Greenwich. (Here is something fun... search for best surgeons in our OPAC. Share your findings. )
Are you having an event on lapbands?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reference on a Rainy Windy Sunday

Can I use a computer?
Where are the bathrooms?
Is that you? (Shameless promotion)
What time does the movie start?
What movies do you have by Pedro Almodóvar?
I am looking for books on business statistics.
Do you have these movies? (And hands me a list.) I only have ten minutes.

Seriously. That was pretty much it in four hours. It was a ghost time, most likely due to the weather. I just spoke about customer service regarding the post office. Likewise, the police department wasn't very helpful either. I contacted them to inquire about a master list of road closings, so I could figure out how to get home. The woman's response was, "We have no idea. You are just going to have to figure it out yourself." I recently blogged about local searches for my library blog, and this type of information is impossible to find online. Two of three ways I know how to get home were closed due to flooding. I only knew this from attempting to get home those ways. While the our databases, google/ask, and news sources give us information a plenty at our fingertips, the local and current information is another challenge.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Do you have an art exhibit going on for The Big Read?
What are the details about the opera happening today for children?
Do you have New York State tax forms? (Being a CT library and all...)
Do you speak English?
Where can I find a public notary?
Income tax forms!
Heaven, are you going?
Where are the restrooms located?
Is there room in the digital photography class today?
May I use the quiet study room?
How do you spell financial?
Can you look up the birthday of these people? (About 9 actresses, singers and writers.)
Do you have any music CDs?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Reference Questions: Friday the 13th Edition

I am not sure I believe in things like Friday the 13th or full moons, but I will tell you this:
There have been some characters in here today. Wow.

Can I return Stamford Library books to Darien or Greenwich?
Are spaces in the library for quiet conversation? I am meeting with someone to practice conversational skills.
May I have more minutes please?
Where can I find travel guides to Greece and Athens?
I am looking for a guide to do my taxes.
Do you have any materials on diluted securities or convertible securities?
Do you have The Secret on DVD? Your catalog says you have one copy available.
(Yes. We do have one copy on the Bookmobile. Here is where the Bookmobile would be today. But, I don't want to drive there and have it not be there. That would be a waste of my mine. If you want it to be there and think that it will be there, it will be there!! Power of positive thinking!!)
Can I have the most recent copy of The Outlook. (We had April 4 in the binder and in the S&P database, April 4 is the most recent edition.)
I saved something to the desktop, and my session timed out. How do I get that back?

I think there is an FHA refund program for people who have paid their mortgage in full and overpaid the insurance.
I am looking for form 1120=H.
I am in Rye, and looking to access the statewide union catalog for CT. (Patron, who is a librarian could not search ReQuest in NYC because of her IP address. Provided contact information for iCONN. )
I have this receipt and I have to go to the website, enter a code, and then I will get a coupon for 15% off. I have a computer-phobia, so can you do this for me? (Again, this is in the same school of I need to apply for a job at Home Depot, I don't know how to use a computer, I don't have an email address, and I need to do it in 15 minutes. I ended up doing it for her, it took me all of 3 minutes, but had I left her on her own, she wouldn't have made it past the first screen. Now, I could write a whole other blog post about whether I am doing her (and my colleagues) a disservice by just doing it.)
I need help printing.
If I was looking for my friend who was using a computer checking his email, where would he be?
Tax forms. Tax forms.
Help me print. The document isn't showing up in print preview. What's your name? You have pretty eyes.

Postal at the Post Office, Or Lessons in Customer Service

I am a huge fan of the US Postal Service. I love sending letters, postcards, packages, little bits of goodness through the mail. And I love getting letters, postcards, magazines. I respect the credo, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, and fully appreciate their efforts.

I am also a fan of excellent customer service, friendly, solution orientated and productive. Background: For the past few months, I have been receiving mail for people who do not live at my house. There are 3 apartments, 5 last names, all clearly written in large letters on the mailboxes. The other issue is that the carrier continually leaves the door to my mailbox open, and at times I have a wet New Yorker or Vogue or Library Journal. This does not make me happy.

Wednesday, I dropped off the large stack and explained that these people do not live at my address. I watched the clerk put a rubber band around the package, and then I bought some stamps. Thursday, the package is back with the rubber band. Now, I am a little annoyed. I have to go back to the Post Office anyhow, but now I must return this package again. I am realizing that nothing had been done about the issue, just that the mail was returned to a carrier and ended up back at my apartment. I arrived, and spoke to a new clerk regarding the two issues. She gave me a phone number to call regarding the open door. I protested, saying I have been down that road, and I would like to find a new solution. She was unable to give me one, but just to call that number again. For the mail delivery issue, she suggested I take the mail back to my apartment and leave it in the box, a solution I have attempted, however my carrier would not pick up the mail.

At this point, I start to get more upset and frustrated at the lack of creative problem solving, as all the solutions they are suggesting have failed, and placing the onus on me. I tell her, loudly and perhaps a bit forcibly that I refuse to take the mail back home with me, and if I do take it back, I will throw it away. Well, everyone gets quiet, and the clerk informs the it would be a federal offense to throw away first class mail and that I shouldn't say that. Well, civil servants, this is the viable solution to ending the mail issue. By not providing a solution, we are creating more work for everyone.

I end my transaction with mailing two packages (which I pray arrive at their destinations) and purchase some stamps. I make a phone call and speak with a supervisor at the Carrier location, who seems sympathetic and understanding. Later in the evening, I reflected on the experience, being a civil servant, productivity, and problem solving. During library school, I worked for a telecommunications company. The site I worked at was completely mismanaged and Dysfunctional. Work was routinely shifted around, people always got the runaround, you could never get a straight answer, and eventually everyone got laid off. My role was to coach and train our employees to optimal job performance. Now coaching and training people who have no motivation is not easy, so I was always searching for creative and innovative solutions. Even in my current position, I am forced to find creative ways to teach computers and the internet to people who wouldn't know how to turn a computer on. I learned something very important on my first day alone at reference desk in a public library. My boss imparted some advice on me that has become a driving force in my customer service philosphy: to not let the patron leave empty handed. This requires innovative and quick thinking.

I have toyed with the idea of writing a letter to the Postal Service. Here is some of the text:

Due to the lack of solution regarding my problem, I am requesting a "return to sender" stamp. Likewise, I will be billing you for 4 hours a month, for the time it takes me to sort the mail, stamp it, and put it back in my mailbox. I am really looking forward to being a part of the postal service team. As a fellow civil servant (I am a librarian), I would just like to say that you suck and we are kicking your ass in terms of efficiency!

(Thanks to Kate for the last line!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Evening Shift

The past 24 hours have been full of network connection issues. When I arrived at work, there was no interweb, but for some reason Flickr, gmail, and Facebook all worked at my desk. Clearly, the important tools for a Reference Librarian.

Do you have the Deadliest Catch on DVD? (Doesn't the name of this show should like an extreme dating show?? Also, friend from high school is on this show! COOL!)
Where can I find this book: 808.something?
What is the phone number for San Diego Public Library?
Articles on team dynamics and leadership.
Biographies on Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer.
Please help me print.
May I have a scrap piece of paper?
How can I tell if a company is reputable? (Me: What kind of information were you looking for? Patron: (and this is the real reference question) My daughter won a trip to Hawaii from this company, but we have to buy $300 worth of products. I just wanted to make sure this company was reputable.) (Company was Sun Laboratories out of LA, and according to the LA BBB company gets an F rating.)
I am looking for the address, phone number and name of ambassador for the US Embassies in Paris and Berlin. Is there one in Dresden?

(I am getting a lot of questions about Germany lately. )

My boss got this question today: Where do I sign my CT tax return?
And apparently, it took him about 5 minutes to explain where.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fun New Tool

I am into the visual representation of data. When data is placed on a map, the story emerges in ways that it might not have been able to been told.

I found this site today: Social Explorer Maps. A team at Queens College at CUNY developed these interactive maps that display census data. They have a few free maps to play around with. One of the cool features I like is the ability to take snapshots of the maps and develop a slideshow. (It looks like only subscribers can save slideshows.) Maps can be a really powerful way to displaying data and showing changes over time. I liked looking at the NYC maps race maps over time. These data maps really do tell a story (through numbers.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

After a Long Weekend...

Everyone wants to use a computer.

I am looking for an article that is in J-S-T-O-R, and the web site I am on is asking me to check with my library. Do we have this? (Of course! I often pronounce it like J-Store, and it was fun listening to someone spell it out, like an acronym.)
Do you have The Double Bind? It is on the best-sellers list.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Reference Questions (for real.)

There is a little Italian place next to 15 Cedar Heights. What is the name and phone number of that store?
What time do you close?
Where can I get an ID card in Stamford?

non-Reference Reference Questions

Do you live in Stamford? I live in the area.
Are you married? I tend not to answer any personal questions when I am at work.*
Oh, you aren't trying to make friends? Uh, no. I wouldn't say that, just that this is my work environment and I keep that separate from my personal life.
Do you have a cellular phone? Um, why?
Maybe I could call you sometime if you did. I don't think so.

This is the second time I was asked out today. Must be the tights.

* (Note to self: How could you forget your imaginary husband? Johnny Depp)

Ahh.. Coffee.

Been on a latte kick lately... Having a Starbucks in the library is A) fabulous (esp with discount!) and B) dangerous.

I really like the Way I See It quotes on the cups, and I really liked the one I had today:

"People should get out of their comfort zones on a daily basis. Take up knitting and boxing. It will make you so much more interesting."
-- Raymond Lawson

Funny it should be that combo! I already knit, and have been toying with the idea of taking up boxing.

homeless and drunk @ your library

Kate, our Loose Cannon Librarian, posted a great entry about Social Services @ Your Library. Being a newbie librarian at a public library I have had a crash course in Social Services in American 101. Outlook, not so good.

I was sitting at the reference desk for a two hour shift, and reading her entry. Halfway through, one of our drunk homeless drug addicts yells to me, "MISS! I NEED YOUR HELP!", a homeless man ask for directions to Norwalk, and a rather lonely man at home calls on the phone to find out how much vitamin E is in sesame seeds (which turned into how many micrograms are in a milligram...)

When meeting new people, one often engages in a discussion about their work, academic or professional. I enjoy my work and want to share my love for libraries and information with others. I find more and more when I talk about my work that I am stressing the personal touch. That so much of my position, whether I like it or not, is kindness and a human touch. Likewise, I have learned (hello newbie!) that kindness can be mistaken for friendship and inappropriate questions and comments. When the streets, shelters, jails are dark and dangerous places our library is a welcomed alternative. (Or is our library a welcomed alternative?)

I think I have become more tolerant of the suffering in our library, and perhaps I am romanticizing this as well. A place with warmth, computers, comfy chairs, bathrooms, and ears attached with desk. So that when the drunk man yells at me from across the room to make his font bigger, I try to place his behavior in the context of a society that is ill equipped to deal with his addictions and provide his basic needs. I sometimes feel apart of that process that is criminalizing the mentally ill, when someone who is drunk and passed out is kicked out. At times, I feel like I should have a card that makes me exempt from our patron's irrationality. Sometimes, I want to roll my eyes, and lament about how rude it is to call out. Down at the root, we are both trying to make it through the day the best we can. I feel ill equipped to discuss the issue because it is such a juggernaut, and I wouldn't even know where to begin. There are days when I go home and feel exhausted and dejected. That America has given up on the poor, the ill, and the hungry, and maybe I should just find a cushy corporate job.

Oh, the things I didn't learn in library school.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Word of the Day

logorrhea, an excessive flow of words.

otherwise known as verbal diarrhea.

Reference Questions!

I hadn't even left my house, and felt I should go back to bed.

I ripped my parking pass this morning, the part that hangs from my rearview window. I proceeded to knock over the base for one of our phones (while the other librarian was on it)! Okay, question time. It is grey, cloudy, rainy and cold, so there isn't too much activity this morning.

A few guest passes for the computers. A printing question. A wireless internet question.
How do you spell Caucasian?
Can you place the movie "Matador" on hold for me?
Do you have a cross reference directory? Who is the publisher?
How much vitamin E is sesame? (Which then turned into how many miligrams are in a microgram, and a whole lot of logorrhea unrelated to grams, vitamin E and sesame.)
Where are your Connecticut State Laws located? Where is the courthouse located?
Where on the web can I find quotes on daily securities from the US Government?
One of our regulars uses an on demand publishing service for his book, and wanted to research other on demand publishers.
Can you tutor me in Flash and Powerpoint? I need to know them both right now!!
Do you have a map or Norwalk?