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Morning Glories

Today I was trying to answer a reference question on the effects of vitamin water on plants, and I ran across the funniest description of a science experiment I have ever read. It can be found at this URL: ...under the title "Should You Feed Your Plants Juice Instead Of Water?"

People’s U – meta unsolicited input

The other week, I got a phone call from someone who immediately expressed her intention to offer unsolicited input, then proceeded to beat around the bush talking about how libraries are underfunded and such. She described an illuminated map that we used to sell in the gift shop and advised that we start selling them again and require every school building in the state to purchase one and display it prominently for the edification of young minds. However, she continued to tell me, this was not her primary suggestion, which she did not begin to unveil until much more pounding in the vicinity of shrubs. Her unsolicited input was kindly offered, free to the library, with no expectation of monetary compensation. "Do you know of [incredibly famous historical local writer, one of whose characters is the namesake for our city football team]?" she asked me. Heh. I did. "You know his house? It's here in the city" Again, I did. "Well, he's very popular around here and people go crazy for anything about him. I was thinking that a lot of people would like a cookie jar shaped like his house. Don't you think so?" "Umm..." I replied. "Well, they don't have to put _cookies_ in it" she quickly continued, seeming to note my lack of enthusiasm for the idea. "They could put whatever they want in it. They could put it on their desk, actually. No one has enough space on their desk these days. They could put rubber bands and binder clips and other things in it." [no response] She vyed further for my approval. "The thing is, most cookie jars are made of ceramic, which is very fragile. So it's probably not good to make the jars of that. But I think something more sturdy, like bronze, would be good. Plus, his house is brown. I'm not sure if it was always brown or if they painted it that way after he died. But they might have kept painting it the same color to preserve its historical value. Anyway, if the cookie jars are bronze they will look more like his brown house." "Ah." I said. "Well. Um. I will pass this idea on to my superviser." "Well, don't you think it's a good idea?!?" she demanded. "It's, uuurm... very interesting" I offered weakly. "Ah, that um sort of thing... uh, merchandising, isn't my specialty. I'm really just here to look up information. I'll be sure to pass this along." "You could sell tons of them and make lots of money!"she proclaimed. "Wouldn't you want one for your desk?" "Um... my desk is very small and mostly I need to store papers and books on it," I said. "Well, MANY people would want it for their desks, I can tell you that much," she said. I did eventually get off the phone with her, after deflecting numerous further attempts to get me to declare her idea brilliant and taking her contact information so we could let her know when the jars had been manufactured and were ready for sale.

People’s U: Metaphorical Ornithology 101

MPOW has a system that assigns people to use computers. The other day, I was summoned by a frustrated-looking woman to assist her with it. She pointed to a user number assigned to a particular computer and told me "That's me, but it won't let me on!" I looked at her user number, which was a different string of digits from the one at which she was pointing as well as from every other number on the waiting list. "That must be someone else's number, which is why that computer won't allow you to log on" I informed her. "I don't see your number anywhere on this list. I'm not sure if you signed up earlier and got timed out, or what happened. I'm sorry, but you'll have to sign up again to get on a computer." "This crazy message keeps coming up when I try to enter my number, see!" she complained. It was the message asking if the person really wants to sign up for the computer waiting list. "Oh, that always comes up" I told her. "NO it doesn't. YOU PEOPLE are full of BULLSHIT!" she hissed at me and started to mutter angrily. Taken aback, I stared blankly a few seconds and then walked back to my workstation without bothering to dispense my "I can only help you once you've calmed down and stopped using abusive language" schtick. In my peripheral vision, I watched the woman fiddle angrily with the sign-up computer. Then she stomped towards my desk. She leaned across the desk and down towards my face. Her face was, like, a twisted mask of rage, about a foot from mine. She screamed at me "YOU ARE NOT GETTING THE INFORMATION... THAT I NEED!" then she stalked away with the luggage she had brought into the library, turning several times to scowl at me. So, yeah. But this story has an epilogue that makes it more interesting. I described this person to one of my coworkers in an attempt to determine whether she was the same person who had yelled at my coworker on the previous day. It turned out that she was not, BUT, based on my description, my coworker, a seasoned 20-something-year vet of this insitution, thought that she was actually a former "regular" who had once been arrested for attacking a judge. Several coworkers recalled the story, found by a staff member in a local paper a few years ago, of how she lunged over the bench to assail the presiding judge during the middle of a trial (not her own). The attacker went to jail, but eventually got out and resumed her library patronage. Eventually her attendance waned and she hasn't been seen in several years. I still don't know whether my unpleasant run-in was a true sighting. As with the ivory-billed woodpecker, I may never know.

Dispatches from People’s U.

As a public reference librarian, I am privy to the information desires and delusional ramblings of innumerable citizens. Following are several slices of library life from my workday today. Ideally this can be an ongoing post topic. {slice 1} I received this question while staffing our chat reference service: "What about the top 10 murders in the U.S" {/slice 1} {slice 2} Later, one of our regular patrons was standing by the reference desk, plying me mercilessly with his incessant jibber-jabber. Asking me about how to get free space for a web page, he told me "I've never asked someone about this before. I think I should have a web page because I'm writing a book. I have five words I want to use so far. One of them is 'goatmeat.'" Addendum: Later, after talking to a librarian from another department, I learned that this fellow is currently intent on writing some sort of dictionary, in which light his comment made slightly more sense. {/slice 2}