Part 1: Actual reference queries reported by American and Canadian library reference desk workers of various levels.
- "Do you have books here?"
- "Do you have a list of all the books written in the English language?"
- "Do you have a list of all the books I've ever read?"
- "I'm looking for Robert James Waller's book, Waltzing through Grand Rapids." (Actual title wanted: "Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend.")
- "Do you have that book by Rushdie: 'Satanic Nurses'?" (Actual title: "Satanic Verses")
- "Where is the reference desk?" This was asked of a person sitting at a desk who had hanging above her head a sign saying "REFERENCE DESK"!
- "I was here about three weeks ago looking at a cookbook that cost $39.95. Do you know which one it is?"
- "Which outlets in the library are appropriate for my hairdryer?"
- "Can you tell me why so many famous Civil War battles were fought on National Park Sites?"
- "Do you have any books with photographs of dinosaurs?"
- "I need a color photograph of George Washington [Christopher Columbus, King Arthur, Moses, Socrates, etc.]"
- "I need a photocopy of Booker T. Washington's birth certificate."
- "I need to find out Ibid's first name for my bibliography."
- "Why don't you have any books by Ibid? He's written a lot of important stuff."
- "I'm looking for information on carpal tunnel syndrome. I think I'm having trouble with it in my neck."
- "Is the basement upstairs?" (Asked at First Floor Reference Desk)
- "I am looking for a list of laws that I can break that would send me back to jail for a couple of months."
Part 2: Actual Reference Interviews reported by American and Canadian library reference desk workers of various levels.
Patron: "I'm looking for a book."
Mental answer 1: "Well, you're in the right place."
Mental answer 2: "Here's one." (Hand over nearest volume.)
Audible answer : "Can you be a little more specific?"
Patron: "I got a quote from a book I turned in last week but I forgot to write down the author and title. It's big and red and I found it on the top shelf. Can you find it for me?"
Mental answer: "Books classified by color are shelved downstairs in the [non-existent] third sub-basement."
Audible answer: "What were you looking for when you found the book the first time?"
In an art library: Patron: Do you have any books on Art?
Ref: Yes. Did you have a certain artist in mind, or a period or style in mind?
Ref: I guess you'll have to look through our 120,000 books and see if you find anything.
Patron: "Do you have anything good to read?"
Reference person getting her audible and mental answers mixed up: "No, ma'am. I'm afraid we have 75,000 books, and they're all duds."
Telephone patron: Do you have books on leaves?
Library worker: Nope, we keep them on shelves.
(She then hung up. Can you tell she's not too fond of Reference duty?)
Caller: "I have a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. It's all blue with swirly stars on it. Can you tell me where I can get it appraised?"
Ref.: "Sir, does it say 'Metropolitan Museum of Art' on the bottom? It does? Well, what you have there is a poster that they sell in the gift shop. I think they're about $10.00."
Patron: "I am looking for a globe of the earth.
Ref: "We have a table-top model over here."
Patron: "No, that's not good enough. Don't you have a life size?"
Ref (after a short pause): "Yes, but it's in use right now!"
Patron: "I have to write a two-page paper on the Civil War, can you help?"
Ref: "What aspect of the war interests you?"
Patron: "What aspect? You mean I have to choose something in particular about it? I thought I'd just write about the whole thing"