Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!

One of the most interesting aspects of my job is the so-called "reference interview." When people come to me with a question I have this small window to make sure that I understand exactly what they're looking for. The way I do this is by asking questions of my own--questions which are meant to narrow down the focus of their inquiry. I try to make it quick and simple so that I don't overwhelm them or make them sorry that they walked up to my desk to be grilled.

Only here's the thing, and it happens all the time. People don't want to answer my questions! They get all cagey and try to be as vague as possible about what they're looking for. As though I'm the one who tracked them down and started trying to pry all their secrets.

It reminds me of the bit on The King and I where the hot king Yul Brynner has a problem, but can't ask a woman for advice. So when Anna asks how he's going to solve this problem, he gets this crafty look on his face and announces, "You guess," thereby saving face when he claims her suggestion as his own already-decided-upon solution.

Yeah. This only worked because it was Yul.

I mean, look at him. That guy could pretty much get away with anything.

Your average person? Not Yul. I can just imagine people trying that someplace like a doctor's office. "So, what seems to be the trouble today?" "You guess." That'll go well. Kind of like how well it goes when they try it with me.

And I promise I'm not out to embarass anyone or invade their privacy. I'm not going to sit there and be like, "Yeah, but are you the one experiencing the burning and itching on your private parts? It's imperative that I know this." But yes, if you are looking for a street map of a very specific intersection in a very specific town and state, then it might be helpful to tell me some of that rather than repeating, "Street maps. I just need street maps." over and over again. That might get us there faster and keep me from ripping my own ears off.

Just a thought.


Jon Boy said... [reply]

Conversely, I hate it when I'm trying to get help from someone (a customer service rep, a store clerk, whatever), and they don't take the time to listen to what I'm saying and figure out what I really need. Instead they hear one or two key words and instantly think they know what I need, so they tune everything else out.

So kudos to you for at least making the effort.

Smedley Family said... [reply]

Steph, good to see you! Found you through Celeste. See your parents all the time, used to be her V.T. Anyways, check our blog out. Lisa

Jér said... [reply]

Argh. I hate it when they do that. Which they do do, ALL THE TIME. The doo-doo heads.

A note to library patrons: you are MORE likely to be sniggered at by the librarian if you ask for "the 613s" and then head straight for the sex books, than if you just ask for sex books straight out.

BEFore said... [reply]

[note to self: The sex books are in 613.]

Nemesis said... [reply]

Yeah they are. And if the 613s are all checked out then the 306s might tide you over . . .

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

I.Love.Yul.Brynner. And you know those abs are real, as it is before computer enhanced everything. Also, I don't think he drew them on with a Sharpie.

Oh, and Chow Yun Fat. By the end of Anna and the King I have a hard time not yelling through the screen at Jodie Foster to throw off every convention she's ever known and become wife #85 or whatever.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Whow needs the 613's with Nem posting pictures of Yul right on her blog? I'm going to have a hard time thinking straight for a few minutes.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

That is "who" needs. I can't even sepll corretcly . . .

BEFore said... [reply]

>That is "who" needs. I can't even sepll corretcly .

Wow, Yul really has an effect on the ladies. :)

Rynell said... [reply]

Maybe you should try the tactic I've had to use with hysterical kids. "If you don't tell me exactly what you need, I can't help you. And stop crying (and/or whining) so I can understand you."

Anonymous said... [reply]

Count me in the Yul Brynner fan club!! :D "Best--bare--foot forward?" And I love the dancing scene. Wow, he is energetic!

Also love Anna and the King, but in a different way, as the two movies are very different genres. Love Anna's dress for the dinner.

Jér said... [reply]

"If you don't tell me exactly what you need, I can't help you. And stop crying (and/or whining) so I can understand you."

Yeah, I've used that with library patrons before, but if they are adults it's not usually very well received. After all, they know they are being perfectly clear, therefore it's my fault I can't understand their request/need. Besides, if I were a REAL liberrian I would be able to read their minds.

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