In addition to fielding questions about great reads, library staff members try to be ready for anything. Sometimes people just want to test our knowledge, but more often than not customers are looking to the library to answer or verify something that has them either baffled or idly curious. In a time where there is an overwhelming amount of information available the library can help people ferret out what is true and relevant. A lot of questions are ones that you might expect:
“Can you suggest an author I might like to try?”
“Can you help me download a book to my device?”
“Can you get a book for me if you don’t have it in your collection?”
The non-book related questions that we get come under a number of different genres:
Many people come into the library to find out where to go and what to do as visitors to the area. Three maps generally help out with these questions – the Princeton Merchant Map, a map of Princeton University and a map of the Princeton Cemetery. We are also often asked about bus schedules, where the post office is, where to find a good place to eat and how to get something notarized. Oh – and everything you can imagine about Einstein.
A lot of people call the library for basic information like phone numbers, addresses, and website information. Sometimes it is simple to “’google”’ the answer, but often people call us because they can’t find it on their own. Some businesses make it very difficult to find their phone number or physical address. In these cases, we search one of our databases, for example, RefUSA.
People call from all over the country in the hopes that we can pull an obituary or article for them from our copy of local papers. We also get questions that we can answer through our databases.
We are often asked to help with “traditional” research questions. Despite all the information that is available online, sometimes it is hard to both find and access credible resources. If there was any commonality to be found in this type of question it might be to find the origin of a quote because “The Internet seems to be awash in mis-attributed quotes” – Abraham Lincoln
I hesitate to say this, because there are some things we are asked to help with but which fall above and beyond the library’s usual consulting scope. For example, “I want to switch my system over to Linux” or “I want to split my hard drive to have two operating systems.” There are cases where we can connect the questioner with resources to help, and point to possibilities for arranging more in-depth consultations. In this information age there are a lot of things technological that we keep up with, so that we can not only stay informed but help our customers. From using your gadgets to various programs on the computer – if we can’t help, we try to point you in the right direction.
There are some personal referral questions that we can’t help with. “Can you tell me who is the best doctor, lawyer, electrician, plumber?” We do subscribe to many magazines in print,. and are happy to suggest websites to help you make a more informed opinion about which specialist is right for your situation.
Do you have a question? We’re here to help! Just ask a librarian.
Photo taken by author.
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