The Google Generation and Library Skills

What the Google Generation Doesn’t Know or 

Get off of my Lawn!

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How has Google affected research skills?  Are library patrons getting the facts?  Are the facts they are getting ‘real’?   Do they know how to find information or what questions to ask? How is the technological immediacy of information balanced against quality?  Do rolling stones still gather no moss?  Many opinions were offered on these subjects and more when  Kevin O’Kelly of the Somerville Public Library asked Publib members:

         “is ignorance of the skills of the pre-Internet age limiting their (high school students) ability to function in the Internet age? ”

To which the Publib Chorus responds:

Thy cnt spl.  Vowels are a thing of the past. Seriously, they can’t spell. They can’t find things, sometimes even on Google because even Google can’t make heads or tails of what they are trying to say.   ~ Dusty Gres – Ohoopee Regional Library System  (editor:   SMS language avoids vowels)

Ay?

I was assisting a middle-schooler with her homework when I noticed she had written that the two official languages of Canada were English and Sumerian. I pointed out her mistake, but even if she had turned the homework in and gotten it wrong she would probably still have discovered that Yahoo Answers isn’t the best resource. And I don’t know about others in my generation, but I rarely find myself’ following the shiny blue hyper-links all over the place in some sort of internet-induced ADD rapture (unless it’s Wikipedia, in which case all bets are off – that site is an easy time-suck). ~ Theresa McNutt – Red Oak Library 

The truly disturbing thing is that back in the day, patrons who couldn’t use the book resources got no information and came to us for help.  Now they will actually get something with their poorly constructed search strategies and they’ll be happy about it.  It’s hard to educate someone who thinks they know what they’re doing. ~ emilie smart – East Baton Rouge Parish Library

. . .Often they finally do come to me, and the only thing left to do is to employ the backhoe method to help them.  I ask ‘what piece of information do you need to have when you leave that you don’t have now?’  … They are entirely too trusting.  They will believe anything if a search engine produces it.  They need to have that talk about not all is gold that glisters and not every search engine is righteous in its presentations.  They don’t know the difference between a site that is there to sell something and one that is there to provide information.  …  They are willing to show others–including librarians–how to manipulate the technology in exchange for being shown how to manipulate information.  Together, we have possibilities. ~ Kathleen Stipek –  Alachua County Library District   

As a member of “generation Google” I respectfully disagree.  It’s a vast  generalization to say that an entire generation (or all young people,  etc.) don’t know how to search online, use an index in a book, or any number of other assumptions. Some younger people don’t know how to do these things; that’s for certain. But neither do some adults. It’s unfair to say that, just because I grew up using computers and the  Internet, I don’t know how to use a library in the traditional sense; or  that I don’t know how to correctly and successfully search for
information online. ~ Amanda Dias – Rodman Public Library

I find that just as many middle aged and older adults have basic book finding and research questions as younger ones. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

I have found that fewer young people have an understanding and appreciation of the Dewey Decimal system.  As we migrate to eBooks and other things digital, I also think about children reading about this strange system (Dewey) that was used to arrange an old technology (books) a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. Which leaves me to wonder if Dewey will ever have a place in a completely digital world? … are the same basic skill(s) needed to find, use and evaluate information changing?

How would our ancient predecessors have handled a change in information technology?  It would be interesting to consider how the Roman era librarians of Alexandria would have handled the change from housing half a million papyrus scrolls to a lesser number of paper books.  What changes in society and technology would have effected them?  (And we all know how the changes in society, politics and history of their times influenced the end result of the Great Library of Alexandria.) ~  Dana L. Brumbelow – Alachua County Library District

 many people of ALL ages now just turn to Google and don’t go any further when looking for information. For me it’s really a question of reminding people that unlike the web, a book doesn’t just suddenly disappear, the way a website will if the internet connection is severed. ~ Teresa Eckford

Pretty much anything off the Internet, regardless of source, if it sounds remotely plausible, will satisfy many questioners. Certainly no one wants to wait the few minutes for a librarian to find the correct information in an actual reference book – just take whatever Wikipedia offers.  And it seems that many teachers, having grown up with the same attitudes, don’t have the sense to demand authoritative sources.  Or, perhaps, even to be aware that they exist.

One of my favorite books, “The Franchise Affair” by Josephine Tey rightly skewers the tabloid press of the 40s.  The crazy tabloids my grandmother subscribed to have move comfortably to the web. Batboy lives!  And I’m having a Martian love child next month!  
. . .  Often research skills are taught in school, but patrons want to take the easy way and have you hand them information.  I’ve encountered this often as a K-8 school librarian.  Several teachers complained to the principal that the students didn’t know how to find information or use the library.  This was after years of being taught how to do both.

I asked the teachers to bring classes in to see what the problem was.  The teacher would ask, “Where would you find information on XYZ?”  A room full of shrugged shoulders and vacant stares.I responded, “Really?  Where is the first place you would look for the information?”  Miraculously hands would go up and they suddenly remembered they would use the index to the encyclopedia and then locate the volumes indicated.  They would explain about the different Dewey classifications and using the OPAC. ~ Paula Laurita – Athens-Limestone Public Library 

 
Yellow Journalsim

Yellow Journalism

“Yellow journalism” goes back to the beginning of journalism! So do highly-regarded books that contained errors, slanted viewpoints, careful omission of important facts, etc.No matter what the medium, “logical fallacies” will always be common. Politics in general relies heavily on them, as do many other factors in life. Critical thinking can be taught, but the emotional and social variables that undermine the process can never be fully overcome.

 I would even suggest that the concept of “authoritative sources” in general tends to downplay critical thinking while appealing to emotion and social pressures.  ;)  Knowing how to manipulate the technology is an integral part of librarianship today.  Librarians should know more than the students in that regard, and should work hard to keep their knowledge current.  In most cases, that means studying on your own time for no pay, just as folks in other professions do.

. . . There are some simple ways to improve Google searches dramatically – when I have trouble finding things via Google, it’s usually because the information simply isn’t online, or it’s so obscure that it takes a lot of extra work (which is true of old style print searching, as well).  Though indexes are more precise, they are inherently much more limited. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

The Pew Research Center [somewhere] discovered that, really, under-twenty-somethings aren’t really all that net-savvy. They found it a misconception that next-genners can fix a computer in their sleep. Stroll through any public library’s teen area and watch them actually try to find info by Googling – it’s laughable, sad even. I’m not sure Google gets enough credit in terms of info. organization. Its services just get a bad rep because of its users. ~ Michael Schofield

 
As professionals we should be aware of, and keep up to date on, both library(research) methods _and_ current information technologies. ~ Carl William Long -   Reading Public Library
 
 I think some patrons would love a drive through window! I my case as a public law library – “one divorce packet, no children, to go please.” ~ Virginia Eldridge  Grayson County Law Library

 What really gets to me about these kids-these-days-and-their-darn-computer-boxes discussions is the knee-jerk assumption that a different skill set is an inferior skill set. Lately I’ve enjoyed pointing people to Socrates’ Phaedrus, written around 370 B.C., in which he rails against the new technology of the printed word and its deleterious effect on the mental habits of future generations. David Malki, author of Wondermark, has a really good blog post about it here: http://bit.ly/fnDHxu     

Socrates

I assume that a listserv full of librarians isn’t going to side with Plato in condemning the written word, but he’s not entirely wrong. A dialogue with a knowledgeable person can be much more illuminating that reading a book written by that same person. Plato’s error is his failure to see that the written word has its own strengths to offset the ways in which it is inferior to the spoken word and his refusal to seek out and exploit those strengths rather than lamenting those inferiorities.

Computers have produced a cultural upheaval to rival that wrought by writing and we’re well the point of no return. We’ll better serve ourselves and our patrons by looking to fuse our competencies with those of the Googleites than by grousing about what the kids don’t know. ~ Andrew Fuerste-Henry – Carnegie-Stout Public Library

. . . this ability to synthesize information into thoughts (especially written thoughts) that young people seem increasingly to be missing. I’m not sure if it has to do with how, or where they are getting their information; whether the inability to use an index or to structure a good online search is part of the problem. But I do know it’s a very real problem. I see it all the time, both at work and when I serve as a judge for local debate tournaments.  ~ Tom Cooper – Webster Groves Public Library

I think this is probably the most significant point to be made on this topic, and gets to the heart of the matter. How to help patrons who don’t know they need help? ~  Mark Hudson  East Baton Rouge Parish Library

And teachers and the Internet and their assignments for children…. I can’t figure out if it’s Google-era teachers or old, seasoned veterans who apparently give assignments and say, broadly, “You need information from a book, from a magazine article, and something from the Internet.”  Period.  I used to think it was older teachers who really were backward and knew nothing of the Internet, but thought it was something that everyone was “doing,” so his/her students should “do” the Internet for an assignment, too.  But I’m not so sure.  Then again, having had experience as a parent, I’m not always sure if kids who say, “The teacher said I need something from the Internet,” and then volunteer no further info, despite the best reference interview I can muster, are telling the truth.  Maybe the teacher gave precise directions and exact websites to try.  (That does happen, in about 10% of the cases, or some ridiculously low percentage like that there one.)  Maybe the teacher spoke intelligently and well about How to Find Good, Accurate Information on the Internet.  Or not.  Or has never been in the public library.  Or perhaps has.

Hittites in Love

And then there are all the official documents sent home for parental signatures at the beginning of the year, baddly ritten with pore grammer an speling an runonsentencez, and who produced *those*, I wonder.  Google-ites, or Troglodytes?  (Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Hivites–oops, now I’m getting carried away with names from the Bible, and am risking political incorrectness in public.  Or on publib.  Stop me now!) ~ John Richmond – Alpha Park Public Library

A brief summation of the Google Generation thread, with abject apologies to the Rolling Stones. :) ~ Tongue firmly in cheek, ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library 

(You! Kids!) Get off of My Lawn

They live on the Internet and they can’t read an analog clock
And they eat junky foods till you can hear all their arteries clog.
They trust Google way too much, and they don’t know how to use an index
They cite Wikis in their papers and good lord, I don’t know what’s next!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

Their phones are ringing Bieber in the library all of the time
They answer them out loud, ignoring all the posted “no cell phone” signs.
You say “Hang it up, kiddo, or I’ll have to ask you to depart.”
And they act as though you’ve stabbed them all the way down into the heart.

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

They barely use a vowel, they communicate only in text-speak
And for all the sense it makes to us, they might as well be sending Greek.
We snoop around the stacks and assume that all their acts are obscene
No wonder they seem to think librarians are all kind of mean!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!   ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library

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Kindles and Android and Nooks (oh my!)

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Update May 19, 2011:   Amazon announced that they are now selling more Kindle books than print books – 5%  more – after dropping the price on the Kindle with advertising to $114.   

Update April 20, 2011:   Amazon announced they will be introducing a Kindle Program for Libraries later this year.     This is significant news for the Library market and quite a game-changer. How will this affect the Overdrive market and the future purchase of hand-held e-book readers by libraries?

According to MediaPost.com  Kindles represent 59% of e-readers shipped.  So, if Overdrive is able to deliver as represented, this would mean 59% more potential e-reader patrons for Libraries that have e-book collections.  Is making the most popular e-reader compatible with 11,000 library collections a positive thing for Libraries?  Is making the devices interactive with the books positive for patrons?  I think it is.
 
It is also potentially *great* for Kindle sales, Kindle book sales, Kindle book authors/publishers (70% royalities in US/UK)  and Overdrive.  The marketplace responded very positively to Amazon’s April 20th news release: http://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NASDAQ:AMZN

Since Overdrive, Inc. is not publicly traded, it is hard to tell what immediate impact this has on the value of their company. But, given Amazon’s extraordinary success in customer satisfaction and their huge IT infrastructure, it stands to reason that the partnership would serve to enhance Library customer satisfaction with Overdrive too.

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Scary new road for Librarians

Many of the  Publib and Web4Lib conversations in 2010 centered on the effects of handheld media devices and applications in the world of libraries.  The mainstream use of handheld media and the proliferation of machines that effectively recreate the reading experience of traditional books struck home for many librarians.

The codex certainly has many iterations, but after 500 years it did become standardized.  With the exception of oversized and miniature books, most are close in size and operate essentially the same way. Librarians are comfortable with and comforted by collections of nice squared chunks of paper, cloth and leather neatly arranged on metal and wooden shelves.   We were comfortable with card catalogs and eventually became comfortable with online catalogs.  The online catalogs certainly did not have the same feel, the same look, the same smell as the old catalogs, but eventually they took hold as  standard library features. Yet, unlike most traditional library catalogs, the intellectual authority over catalog software was outsourced to vendors.  Librarians essentially gave up ownership of their catalogs, while providing broader access to more collections for their patrons through shared resources, databases and inter-library loan.

Slowly, a new path of accessibility began to blend in with the online catalogs. Digital books and digital audio became popular. Massive digitization and storage of public domain works projects were undertaken.  Computer memory, speed, and storage increased while size, cost and energy needs decreased.   Smart-phones and wireless networking became common. 3G and 4G networks proliferated. The convergence of networks, digitization, and hardware improvements meant book contents requiring hundreds of metal and wooden shelves are now available on devices weighing under a pound. And, those same devices have access to enormous digitized collections at far greater speed than even the most efficient traditional library services. 

The youthful progression of 18-20 somethings forced  Academic Librarians to become early adopters of hand-held media technology. Academic in-house computing power and talent lent themselves to solving problems of accommodating information delivery in the manner prefered by their gen x and gen y patrons .  Public Librarians trended towards becoming late adopters.  Many had no budget for electronic book collection development.  Others, inhibited by vendor controlled delivery and electronic book access looked for ways around what appeared to be a system without standards.  Some of the better funded public libraries have been able to develop electronic book collections, purchase electronic readers, and effectively respond to the demand by their patrons for this new information medium. 

 

Rise of the Machines

2010 Christmas season sales in the US accompanied a big price break and increase in quality for hand-held electronic book readers.  Nook, from Barnes & Noble, dropped its price to $149 and started offering a color screen.  Kindle  , from Amazon dropped in price to $139 and the Kindle became their top-selling item.  The Sony ebook Reader was more affordable at $129. The marketplace moved from early adopters willing to pay several hundreds of dollars to the mass market with prices under $200 for advanced electronic book readers.  Many librarians saw the trend and adapted to increased demand for e-books by their patrons.   Many other librarians worked on denying the viability of e-books and holding on to the comfortable idea that the codex was simply better.  But with massive profits driving the suppliers, each complaint about the viability of e-books is being addressed with solutions.  And, the suppliers of e-readers attempt to make their devices behave as well or better than the traditional book:

Librarians and readers complained that reading from a computer screen was not as enjoyable as reading a book. Nook now advertises its “just-like-paper screen” and Kindle and Sony employ the same electronic technology from E-Ink .  The electronic paper screens do not have the flicker of CRTs and glare of LCD panels.  They are not back-lit such as LCD / LED screens - so text does not disappear in direct sunlight.  Some reports link use of LCD and LED screens to insomnia , but the same effect is not apparent with the E-Ink electronic paper available from new electronic book readers.

Librarians and readers complained that sharing of downloaded materials was not possible because the license was for one device, one reader Nook and Kindle have begun to address sharing and are now offering options. Market demand and profit will determine future sharing options. With such an insignificant production / advertising / distribution cost compared to traditional books – electronic books potentially have more leeway in terms of maintaining profitability for publishers and authors.

Nook offers social media options and two million titles. Kindle offers text to speech, advanced pdf reader, and Whispersync links your personal library and the progress of your reading with other devices you might own.  Sony offers Readerstore, Googlebooks, and excellent cross-platform compatibility. Each device is moving towards becoming more and more multifunctional.

Librarians complained about the lack of standardization, instructions and cross-platform compatibility. Most of those problems were derived from vendors who had failed to create adequate instructions and quickly address the needs of libraries as fluid and dynamic information marketplaces.  Conversely, with each complaint about electronic book readers, the focus of the manufacturers and suppliers is to improve.  The complaints are heard as an  opportunity to improve and move a step ahead of their competition.  Are libraries competing?

As if Kindle and Nook and Sony did not create a big enough impact, Google’s Android operating system along with Apple’s iPad  / iPhone and PC applications paved the way for multi-use handheld devices.  3G access became widespread and smartphones are able to use Nook,  Sony and Kindle applications to increase personal library access.   Android equipped devices can quickly download a Kindle or Nook application. Every smartphone can now become an electronic book reader and a mobile library.

The electronic book is here and expanding and evolving without librarians a gatekeepers.  However, there is encouraging news from many public libraries showing patron excitement over electronic book collections.  Some are offering to purchase copies for libraries.  Multiple holds for electronic books demonstrate that sharing is still one of the most effective tool of libraries.   But, if libraries are going to rely solely of vendors for delivery,  vendors must improve and address libraries as valued and dynamic information markets. One of the most promising tools available to librarians who wish to take the intellectual leap of not being entirely vendor dependent is Calibre ebook management.    This “free and open source e-book library management application” offers many features of value to librarians and their patrons.

Librarians must address competition in the information market in order to remain viable. With massive budget cuts to all public services looming, the road ahead for libraries is unknown.  However, it looks like the Tin Man will be traveling with us.

Rise of the Machines

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International Sounds of Christmas

Elisa Babel, MLS

Christmas is my favorite season–the decorations everywhere I go, festive lights in stores or peoples’ yards, delicious treats, presents, Christmas cards, and music in church and on the radio.  To add an international flavor to the season, these are Christmas music CDs in my collection for an enhanced listening pleasure.

Putumayo

  • World Christmas Party –Putumayo’s newest Christmas CD.  Makes for an enjoyable background listen for a holiday party.  Global styles include African, Latin, Caribbean, etc.
  • Christmas Around the World–one of Putumayo’s earlier Christmas CDs.  This has more classical songs including ones you may not have heard.
  • New Orleans Christmas–if you prefer jazz and blues, this CD features the sounds of the Big Easy at Christmas.  Don’t forget ALA Annual heads to New Orleans next June!  (Note: Putumayo features a line of Louisiana CDs)

*Note: these Christmas CDs are part of Putumayo’s holiday music collection.

Rough Guide Music

  • World Christmasfrom the Rough Guide Music’s “Think Global” series.   Besides a few  familiar songs, this CD features songs from countries you won’t normally hear about musically.

New Age

  •  And Winter CameEnya: Released in 2008, I was excited to get this album since I’m a fan of her music.  It’s a delightful listen and my favorite album.  It beautifully captures the Christmas season.  If you visit her website, it includes the lyrics and music videos of two songs from the album.
  • 

Wishing PUBLIB readers a wonderful holiday season!  On an international note…

  • Joyeux Noel–French
  • Sretan Bozic–Croatian
  • Linksmu Kaledu–Lithuanian
  • Merry Christmas!!

*Special note: if your travels bring you to DC during the holiday season, check out the outdoor 6th Annual Holiday Market on the F St side of the Smithsonian Musuem of American Art.

Culture of the Book, Gutenberg Parenthesis and new ways of learning

Excellent position paper on the culture of the book:

Gutenberg Parenthesis 

 Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do?)  discusses this and more in the Huffington Post article today :  Who says our way is the right way?

Ptolemy III had a standing order that visitors coming to Alexandria would surrender written works so that copies could be made for the Library. With subsequent fires, permanence was not granted to those collections. But, potential readership at least doubled.

Google has a standing order to accumulate books from wherever they might obtain them so copies can be made for that digital library. It is unclear what would lead to impermanence of those collections. Potential readership is unlimited.

  • Kings and Dominant Corporations.
  • Mobile Ships as vessels of information and Libraries with Interlibrary Loan.
  • Sanskrit and Hexidecimal.
  • Ideas and Ideas.

Best of PubLib 03.28.10

Best of Publib Current Topics and Archives

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This edition of  Best of Publib covers  March 15th through March 28th 2010. This PubLib review and analysis includes questions about naming library rooms, thought-provoking discussions about new media archives , library materials security,  and our new poll on R-rated movie access. Some of the topics we will be reviewing include: 

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Best of PubLib 03.14.10

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Video coming soon

This edition of  Best of Publib covers the weeks of March 1st  through March 14th 2010. This edition includes questions about collection development, thought-provoking discussions about  known inaccuracies in ‘non-fiction’ works , circulation manager duties ,  humorous anecdotes regarding blondes ,  and the impact of closing public school libraries: 

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Best of PubLib 02.21.10

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This week  in  Best of Publib covers February 15th through February 21st 2010. This week includes PubLib questions about collection development, the value of on-line tutorials and databases , organization of gaming tournaments,  and the cause of stress in public libraries. Some of the topics we will be reviewing include: 

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Best of PubLib 02.14.10

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This week  in  Best of Publib covers the week of February 8th through February 14th 2010. This week includes questions about public access computer security, thought-provoking discussions about sharing library buildings with community centers and government, distribution of e-book readers,  and our new poll on rewarding staff innovation and initiative. Some of the topics we will be reviewing include: 

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Best of PubLib 02.08.10

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weekly updateThis week  in  Best of Publib covers the week of February 1st through February 7th 2010. This week includes questions about collection development, thought-provoking discussions about social reference questions , library website development,  and changes to library employment qualifications. Some of the topics we will be reviewing include:

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Best of Publib Library Humor

The following gems are courtesy of the collective mind of the PubLib Listserve January 2010 Archives

From the Front-line Circulation Desks : featured article

♦   Message: I cannot come in today to return a DVD. I tried to renew the DVD and the system will not allow me to because someone has put in a request for this DVD. It seems to me if I am allowed renewals on DVDs, this person should be expected to wait until I am done. I should not be penalized, with no warning, that I am suddenly not allowed to renew my movie. I should not be expected to pay any fine or even show this on my library record. :roll:

♦  … my favorite, although it was a telephone call, was the lady who called me about the overdue notice she had gotten on the book & CD set she had checked out. We were wrong, it couldn’t be overdue, because she had only had it for four weeks and the title said, “Learn Spanish in Three Months.” :D

♦  Our Circ clerk just shared with me at lunch today that she had strong words from a patron who was also upset about renewals: we’ve had quite a bit of snow this week (with more to come tonight) and the patron cannot get out of his house and all the way in to town to drop off his books. He is very upset that he is going to be charged 15 cents when it isn’t his fault it snowed . . . He tried to convince our new circ clerk that we have a no-late-fees-when-there’s-snow-on-the-ground policy. :)

♦  I’ve witnessed a patron trying to tell a Circ clerk that she shouldn’t have to pay that late fee because she wasn’t going to *drive* to the library to return materials that were due on Earth Day. One supposes the energy demands caused by using the phone or web that day were simply too much for her to consider utilizing those methods, either. :)

♦  My favorite excuse for not paying late fees, is when the patron says I didn’t even read/watch/listen to it. :)

♦  We recently had a patron come to the door before we opened. He didn’t trythe door, just started banging, kicking, and swearing. He repeated “Open the d at mn door” a few times and then left.

The next evening he returned and of course he had received a bill for the book since he’d had it since September. He complained that he can’t get to the library when we are open. I refrained from pointing out that he managed to get to the library to check the book out.

I politely stated that he was welcome to use the book drop if we were closed. “Oh, where is that?” ‘It’s to the right of the door you came in this evening.’ He looked startled and paid his fine saying thank-you to all the staff for their help as he left. :)

♦  I had a patron insist she returned the books she had checked out for six months. She remembered that the library was wide open and no one was there. (Tiny library inside a college, no book drop.) She said she left the books on the desk and walked out. She said it was a Saturday. The library was not open on Saturday and only a couple of people had the key. :)

♦  Northern Nevada usually has very little snow that sticks around, but this year has had significant snow: a patron called to say that she couldn’t get to the library to turn in her books, so they went to California instead. Huh? :?

From the Reference and Information Trenches :

♦  Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid – I was told by a second grader that he read that long book……I tried so hard not to laugh. :)

♦  My manager once was asked:

Little Boy: “Do you have a book on Third-Grade Marshall?”

Manager/Librarian: “Do you mean Thurgood Marshall?” :D

♦  True story: A lady approaches the reference desk. I am sitting behind the desk (under a big sign that says Reference/Information), with my county ID on.

Lady: What’s your job?

Me: I’m a reference librarian.

Lady: Here?   :)

♦  When I worked at a bookstore, someone came in and asked me “Do you make keys here?”   :)

♦  I was once asked if we had any books on “Hanukkah and other foreign Christmas holidays.”   :)

♦  “Did George Washington sign the Declaration of Independence after he wrote it?”   ;)

♦  I like, ” can you get me the book I checked in last week? It had a green cover”.   :)

♦  Once a patron asked “Why would they put two short novels in one book?” She thought the novellas had been mashed together into one. I could not make her understand that they were still separate. Even saying, there’s the first novella, then the second one starts independently. She just kept saying, “Why would they do that? It doesn’t make any sense.” I said, “You’re right, it doesn’t.” And walked away. :)

♦  My best question was “Do you have books?” asked about 10 years ago. It was difficult keeping a straight face. :)

♦  “How much does it cost to rent books here?” :)

♦  How about “Do you have the book with all the answers?” I was about to suggest the Bible when I remembered I was interning in an academic library and they were looking for the answer book that their professor had left for them there. :idea:

♦  I work in a small, almost rural, library. One day a woman called up and asked the director, “How did Mr. [Smith’s] prostate surgery go?”

The director was a little confused as we didn’t have anyone on staff with that name and said, “I’m sorry, but there isn’t any Mr. Smith here.”

The woman said, “Oh, no! He isn’t *there*; he lives down on Main St. I’m just calling you to find out how his prostate surgery went.”

The director thought that maybe the woman had her confused with one of the other staff members who perhaps COULD give her that piece of information and she said, “I don’t have that information. Are you sure you meant to speak to *me* about this?”

And the woman answered brightly, “Of course I did! You’re the library. You know everything!” :oops:

♦  I had a little boy ask me once for “gay magazines” – i.e. “game magazines.” :)

♦  On a different topic, I once saw a patron go to an OPAC terminal to access his email account (which has happened several times). The screen was already set for an author search. He typed something in the search box, hit “submit,” scratched his head at the results and walked away. I walked up to the terminal and this was on the screen:

                                        “no author matches found for bigstud99 at hotmail.com; nearby matches are..”   :)

♦  When I worked as a circulation assistant at an academic library, a student asked for a “Non-fiction book” for an assignment. Just any Non-fiction book…

♦  I was just sitting at the reference desk a few minutes ago and got that exact same request, but mine was followed up by “I want something that isn’t boring.” She went off to look at some titles to try and see if she was interested in any of them. Then my shift ended. Hopefully something appealed. :)

♦  “Do you have any books with photographs of real dinosaurs?” :)

♦  My most interesting ones actually happened in a bookstore that I worked in during the early 90s: A customer asked me “Where are the red books?” After she clarified that she wanted to know where the books with red covers were, and that she didn’t have a particular one in mind, I told her that we don’t shelve by color. She said: “Why not?”

♦  Another customer asked me where the “book on the table” was (we had dozens of display tables). She couldn’t remember the author’s name, the title, what it was about, what the cover looked like, whether it was paperback or hardback, or any other detail about it. She thought that she had seen it a few weeks prior, or maybe a few months back, but at least within the last six months…maybe.

♦  Another time, a customer walked up to me and asked me where books with “pictures of dead things” were. He didn’t care if they were human or not, how they were killed, where they were killed, etc. He just kept reiterating that he wanted a book with “lots of pictures of dead things.” We tried True Crime, but the books there had “too many words.” We went to the Photography section and found a book on Vietnam that had lots of pictures of dead people, but (sadly) there was a one sentence caption at the bottom of each page. “Too many words,” he said. In the end, I sent him to “Forbidden Books,” an interesting bookstore in Dallas(now defunct) that carried the books that most bookstores wouldn’t touch. :shock:

♦  At the same bookstore, a customer walked up to me and told me a sad tale about the murder of her mother-in-law. Evidently, after visiting the customer’s family, the grandmother got on a plane, flew home, and was picked up in the airport by one of her other sons, who then gunned her down on the spot. The customer said “Where are the children’s books on that?” She didn’t want books about dealing with murder, books about the death of a relative, or general books about grief. No, she specifically wanted a book about a grandmother who is shot by her son, and nothing else would do. At that point, I fell back on my stock answer for that type of situation: I told her that it was a shame that the publishing industry had ignored that issue, and it would be great if someone wouldstep forward and write a good book about it. She said “I’ll do that!” and left happy. :sad: – Jesse Ephraim :!:

♦  Or the patron who looked at me with disbelief when I told him that fiction was organized by the authors’ last names. “Well, why don’t you put them by title?” As in, all fiction in alpha order by title. When I explained that some people want to see what else an author has written, and that many people like an author but don’t know the titles of books they’ve written, he looked at me as though I were mentally deficient. ;)

♦  A favorite of mine… I *believe* I read about this one years ago in Booklist, probably in a Will Manley article, but I’m not exactly sure. This has stuck with me all these years – namely for the tactful manner used by the librarian, if  anything.

It went like this:

Patron: “Do you have a life-sized atlas of the world available?”

Reference Librarian: [With an incredulous look upon her face] “Yes, but its in use right now.” :D

♦  Customer (Direct quote): : “I need some books on booby traps.”

Librarian: “Sure! Are you looking for hunting traps?”

Customer: “Hell no! I’m lookin’ for human booby traps, those d at mn wetbacks keep stealing my chickens!”  :evil:

Editors Note : The best resource may be ACME, but some of the products may not create the desired results. :shock:

And,  from Joe Schallan on the Beautiful NW :

♦   “I want to caution Publibbers about the “beautiful Northwest” bit, though. It’s beautiful, all right, if you like green. Heck, you’d be green, too, and with saplings sprouting from your scalp, if you had that much drizzle dumped on your head every year.

The Washington state flag is green because it is wet most of the year. Moss forms on the fabric itself. If you’re a flag maker, you can dye it green to disguise the moss, or just sell it undyed and let nature take its course.

How much drizzle? Would you believe 452 inches per annum? (Whatcom County actually has its own rainfull measurement standard, the Smoot, used to more compactly express such vast amounts of moisture, and based on the height of a well-known local bathroom-cleaning-products salesman, Oliver Smoot, who was five foot nine: “We got six-and-a-half Smoots last year.” “Yep, thank God, a little under average.”)

Which is not to suggest that there is no variability in the weather. It runs the gamut from drizzle to rain and back again to drizzle   more … :D

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