From the Reference Desk

by on February 11th, 2014

Reference desk photoJust what happens at the Reference Desk?  We get every kind of question you can imagine on just about every topic.  Sometimes a question can be quick and easy to answer or it can be more challenging. Recently we had a patron looking for a book she thought she read last year. You know, the patron said, the book with a dog on the cover.  How hard can that be? Let’s find out.

The Reference Desk staff uses its detective skills by conducting a reference interview to help narrow down the search for the book with the dog on the cover. First we ask the patron if she has Reading History turned on in her library account.  If she does, bingo, we can search through the titles checked out and locate the book.  (If you haven’t turned on your Reading History it’s very easy – just Login to Your Account and click on Opt In and you can keep track of everything you have borrowed from the library.)

Alas, no Reading History, so we carry on with the interview. Do you remember the topic of the book? Yes, it was poetry about dogs.  Great, that helps a lot. We go to the online catalog and search under the keywords and we find the subject heading: dogs—poetry. The library has four titles in the Nonfiction collection of dog poetry, (there are more in the Children’s Room).  All of the titles have cover images in our catalog and, voila, there it is: “Book of Dog: Poems” by Cleopatra Mathis. It didn’t actually have a dog on its cover, it was not a book from 2013, but she recognized the cover and the title. And, best of all, it is on the shelf! BOD

On our way back to the stacks to find “Book of Dog” the patron tells me that she wants to check it out again to share it with a friend whose dog had just died. She recalls a poem that Mathis wrote that might just help her friend find solace at this difficult time.

Everything fell into place with that reference interview; the patron’s memory was fairly accurate,  she was able to narrow the subject down immediately and we found the title on the shelf.  All questions aren’t this easy.  Stay tuned for more tales from the Reference Desk.

One Response to “From the Reference Desk”

  1. elyse says:

    I am currently reading Mastermind/How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova which I found on the New non-fiction display shelf on Friday.
    I believe some of the suggestions in this book will help with reference interviews in particular, and all human interactions, observations, etc. in general.

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