Referential treatment

Posted: June 26, 2008 in Library, General

Who knew the reference desk was so much fun? Seasoned librarians are probably laughing their heads off thinking “You are SUCH a virgin!” But to me, the neophyte who’s only been on the desk a handful of times, it’s really an interesting change from working in the staff room. Back there it’s a rare thing seeing a non-librarian. When they occasionally do wander in we figure they’re aliens – or terrorists – and taser them. Then we check their i.d.s

Another big change working on the reference desk is the temperature. The staff room at our library could be used as a meat storage locker in the summer. I think the temperature in there hangs out at around 34 F – at least that’s how it feels. There are people who bring in quilts to keep warm, if that tells you something. Out in the library it’s comfortable and sometimes even a little warm. I come out to the library to defrost sometimes, trailing a puddle of melting ice behind me.

For the past almost three years I’ve worked at the library I’ve heard stories about patrons, some good, some a little weird. Now I’m getting to meet these people. As time goes on I’m sure I’ll grow to recognize them and tell the nice from the scary. For now they’re all a blur of non-librarian humanity, but these I can’t taser – as much as I may find I yearn to.

A big minus of sitting at the desk is how loud the lobby/foyer area is, and how children’s screams can be multiplied by about a thousand when you put them in an acoustically perfect environment. Through it all you gotta smile. Smile and look ready to help, pretending there isn’t blood trickling out your ears from your broken eardrums.

Today I was so happy I got to use my RA skills to help a patron. She was a sweet elderly woman who said she was looking for either fiction set in WW II or something about Henry VIII, but without so much of that head-chopping stuff. Now there’s a request you don’t get every day. I sent her home with one book she wanted, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and one I recommended, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, a book I’ve read and enjoyed. It’s inevitable she’ll get to the head-chopping part eventually, but maybe it won’t be so upsetting from Henry’s point of view. But she left smiling, and that’s the point.

Ask me in a few months if I’m still feeling cheery about the reference desk. Or better yet, I’ll just tell you. That’ll save you the trouble.

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