Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Funny you should ask: Humor at the Reference Desk

"A short time after returning to librarianship after some years away, I was working at the reference desk . . . When I looked up . . . a young man (approximately college age) was standing there. I asked if I could help him and he said, "Do you have anything on eunuchs?"

A sample from "Funny You Should Ask: Baffling, Bewildering, and
Bizarre Questions from the Reference Desk" (Thomson, 2005) (a weekly e-mail column from

Janis Test of the Abilene Public Library contributed this:
"Somewhat taken aback, I decided to use my reference interview skills (however rusty) and began asking questions such as "Do you have any particular time period in mind?" and "Are you more interested in harem culture, or castrati?"

When I noted that he was looking at me as if I were from another planet, I sighed and fell back on the tried and true, "How do you spell that?"

He rolled his eyes and said patiently, "U-N-I-X." I said, "Oh, exactly," looked it up in the online catalog and directed him to the appropriate part of the library. Once he had gotten out of range, I began laughing and almost literally fell out of my chair. So much for the reference interview." [source: "Al Reynolds" ]

  • True Library stories
  • "Humor is allowed in reference desk answers"
  • Librarian Humor in Classroom and Reference
  • See also: Google
  • Unusual Reference Questions - Globalism Visited
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