Sunday, March 14, 2004

God helps those...

"Is there someone at the Information Desk today? I need help."

I look up from my blogging. There is a middle-aged man standing in front of me whom I recognize vaguely as someone to whom I check a lot of books out. Right now he looks rather put out. I peer over towards the Information Desk, which is directly opposite my station here at Circ - the librarian on duty there must be taking a break or assisting someone elsewhere, though it's entirely possible that she went home early for the day, since she wasn't feeling all that well when I spoke to her earlier.

"I'm not sure, sir. I know that someone is supposed to be on duty this afternoon."

"Well there's nobody there. No one is answering the phone, either."

"Is there something I can help you with?"

"I need to get into WorldCat."

WorldCat is the public interface to OCLC, allowing a user to locate materials throughout North America and, increasingly, beyond. It's an extremely useful thing to have at one's disposal in the scholarly line of work. "I can help you with that, sir. It's available through our E-Resources."

"I don't know why there isn't anyone at the desks. I checked upstairs and downstairs."

"Sir? It's right here, off the main catalog page." I turn my monitor to face him, pointing at the relevant link, but he actually averts his gaze.

"But I need to get into WorldCat."

"I understand that," I say, although I'm increasingly supecting that I don't.

"Are you sure that there's someone here today?"

"Sir. It's just two clicks. Here, let me show you--"

"I don't have time to learn that!" the man barks at me. "I just want to talk to someone at the Information Desk."

By this point I should have gotten the hint that this man is trouble, but sometimes a little persistence on our end does pay off, even with the seemingly hopeless cases. "If you need to use WorldCat, you can access it anywhere in the library from HOLLIS. It's easy."

The man simply shakes his head and mutters. It's clear to me now that he's not the kind of scholar who actually does anything on his own, although presumably signing his checks for all of the labor mercilessly delegated out to others is not beneath him. He's not even a fossil, which would at least partly excuse treating me like something he'd scraped off the bottom of his shoe for having the insolence to try and educate him in the art of information gathering in the 21st Century. Oh, well. He stalks away without so much as a good-bye or a thank you, still muttering and still very much put out.

Shortly thereafter, the reference librarian reappears at the Information Desk, looking rather chipper for someone with a cold. I nod and smile. That's the kind of timing you only learn at library school...

(Cross-posted from The Jersey Exile)

Sunday, March 07, 2004