September 17, 2009

Goddess of the Library

My optometrist asked me if I have a lot of people come up to me and ask for directions, help, etc. He said that my pupil size is a subconscious indicator to people that I'm friendly. Once again, I have to think that I chose the right line of work for myself, because that is the majority of how I spend my workday: doling out directions and instructions, leading tours, and generally caring way too much about solving people's problems.

People come up to the reference desk and need help finding things in the library, and I talk them through the process step by step. Teach a man to fish and all that. But I'm starting to talk to myself all the time because I'm so used to showing people how to do things. "Now I'm going to check my Gmail. First, I'll open a new tab in Firefox, and then..." It's starting to draw some stares.

The job is very rewarding. I had a professor tell me that I changed his life by showing him how to locate articles through the library website. I helped a couple of new students with a library scavenger hunt, and they were effusive in their thanks. One of them said, "It's like you're the goddess of the library. No one else could help me. They just gave me your card." So I think I'm changing my title from reference librarian to goddess of the library. Definitely has the connotation of superpowers, which should help with job security.

I get some funny questions, too. This summer, a new student asked when the first day of classes would be. I answered August 27. She said, "Oh, I wondered, cause that's the same week as Rush and I didn't know if they'd conflict." I get plenty of questions with seemingly obvious answers such as "Where is the basement?"

I had a freshman come up to the desk to ask where room 159 was, or wait, maybe it was 179. Yeah, she had no idea where she was supposed to be to attend an extra-credit lecture. We don't have a room 159 or room 179 here, I told her. I did some hunting, walked her around the building, even took her to the room that later turned out to be what she was looking for. To all this, she said no, no, I don't think this is it. "What's your instructor's name? I could call him or search the library calendars..." She didn't know the instructor's name and wasn't too sure what the course number was.

"I wrote all this down in my planner, but I lost my planner."

By this time, another student had come up to the desk with the same question. "I'm looking for an extra-credit lecture in room 200."

"Room 200?" I said, "There's really not any place on the second floor where that could be..."

The two students huddled with me for a moment. Then luckily another student, a total overachiever, came up at that moment and asked where room 309 was for the lecture. Eureka. "You guys really need to write things down," I said and smiled. I'll be a great mom.

You see, these are the kind of goofy stories and non-funny jokes that librarians sit around and tell each other for a laugh. I made up this joke I'm rather proud of:
What's a reference librarian's favorite question to get?
"What's your number?"
After some pondering, I decided that joke lacks the essential element of truthiness that makes a joke funny. So here's the revamped one:
What's a question that a reference librarian will never get?
"What's your number?"


Brent said...

Great post!

JaneHeiress said...

How can you say that? Did that one guy not ask for your number? Maybe it wasn't while you were at the desk...

Anyway, from what I hear, it's the Reference Librarians in the Public sector that get all the pick-up attempts. A friend of mine has already had a couple of proposals. I think I'm content to stay in Academia.

Kimberly said...

I'm pretty sure I've had more dates since I started working at the reference desk than I've had in my entire adult life.

I had a patron ask me out on the "Ask a Librarian" chat reference service. I say, I think it's just "Ask a Librarian," not "Ask a Librarian Out." Not that I'm not going to discourage it.

Jamie Cotter said...

LOL that is too funny. I'm sure you remember the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"...Jimmy Stewart married the "hot" librarian. :)

wendy v. said...

I think I am your biggest rival for world's largest pupils, and I win that contest. When you couple that with the fact that I actually smile, you understand why I haven't gone a week at this school without having someone approach me for directions, help, etc.