Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Library Encounter

An encounter such as this one makes me wonder why I went to library school; luckily, there are offsetting encounters that balance things out.

Telephone rang; it was around 10am. I picked it up and said, "Reference Desk."
"Could you help me out, my computer's down."
Recognized her voice instantly. Her computer has been down for weeks.
"I'm looking for the telephone number of a John Conner in Westhampton. That's c-o-double n-e-r."
"Sure; hold on a minute." I was remembering all the reference courses I took in Library School, all the research I had to conduct, the papers I had to write (using APA citation protocol), the exams I had to take, the money I had to pay, the grief I had to suffer, the long hours and long months.

I went to library school and took a bucketload of reference courses so I could look up a phone number for a person who refuses to do the work herself (or pay directory assistance, which is understandable, for these days each call is a buck, or more). I have two master's degrees, and I'm looking up phone numbers?

Found a John Conner in the Suffolk County White Pages. C-o-double n-e-r, but in East Quogue, not Westhampton, but it was the only John Conner in the Suffolk County. Research told me I'd found not the requested item, but a close approximation, and intelligence and experience told me this was the only one.

"I found a John Conner," I told the patron, holding the phone a couple of inches away from my ear, for this is a loud-voiced patron. "But in East Quogue, not Westhampton."

"Oh," she said. Loudly. "You're sure there's no other John Conner?"

"Yes, I am. He's the only one."

"That's C-o-double n-e-r, right?"

Holding the phone half a dozen inches from my ear, I answered, "yes, as you said. He's in East Quogue, not Westhampton. Would you like the number?"

"Oh, okay." She continued speaking loudly, and I continued to hold the phone away from my ear.

"That number is," I intoned, and hesitated. Wait, wait until I get a piece of paper is one of the comments she's made in the past. The woman calls looking for a telephone number of a person in Suffolk County, of a pharmacy in Hempstead, of a restaurant in Mineola, and she does not have a piece of paper and a pen or a pencil ready. I went to get a second master's degree for this.

"Yes," she said, indicating she was ready.

The number was, say, 744-6610; I began slowly. "Seven-four-four."

"Wait, now, that's seven-four-four?"

"Yes, that's right," I said, and paused.


"Six, six."

"Six, six?"

"Yes, six-six."





"One, zero?"

"Yes, that's right: one-zero."

"So, that's 744 ..." she said, and paused.

"Right, seven-four-four."

"Six, six, one, zero?"

"Right, 6610."

"And that was Conner: c-o-double n-e-r?"

"As you said, yes."

"And there's no other Conner in Westhampton?"

"No, there is only the Conner in East Quogue."

"And his number's 744-6610?"

"Yes, it is?"

"Thank you dear," I heard her voice saying as I returned the phone to its cradle. Another successful research project completed.

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