Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oranges and Peaches and Pablo

There's this story that just about everyone hears in library school. I don't know if it started off as a true story, or a joke, or a well-written example of the sort of troubles one might encounter during reference interviews* but it is now an urban legend of sorts. The story goes as follows: A student comes to the reference desk and asks the librarian if she can get the book called Oranges and Peaches. The librarian searches fruitlessly for this book. There is nothing titled anything remotely like "oranges and peaches." So, like a well-trained reference librarian, she asks what else the student knows about the book. Who wrote it, what is it about, what class is it for, etc. The student says it's this super-famous, super-important book that her biology teacher told her to read. The librarian, being incredibly good at her job, figures out that the student actually meant Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

I love this story, because I know that things like this must happen every day in libraries. You get all sorts of questions, and sometimes they come from confused students who aren't exactly sure what they're after. I've even had the "I checked out a book three years ago and it was orange, can you find it?" type of question. Classic. But I never thought I would get a question quite like Oranges and Peaches. But then, last night happened.

Two really nice students came in looking for books to help them with a psychology project. They're studying behavioral therapy, and they were assigned the scientist "Pablo." If I had been paying attention carefully, I probably would have figured it out right there, but I think my mind was addled by a combination of RFID tagging for an hour and too many Ricola. I search and find nothing. I Google and find nothing. One of the students goes to find their teacher, who was just outside the library. Did you figure it out yet? Behavioral scientist; "Pablo." Yup... It was Ivan Pavlov. We all thought it was pretty funny, and I was relieved to be able to help them find a wealth of information (as opposed to the nothing on "Pablo").

*Reference interviews, for the non-librarians among you, are not interviews to get reference jobs. That's what we call it when you come to the desk and we ask you questions to figure out what it is that you're actually looking for. They happen because you'll get a student asking for "books on math" when really they want "the textbook for my statistics class" or they'll ask for books on a topic when they actually need a variety of sources to include books, journal articles, and reliable websites.

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