Below are reference stories shared by our QuestionPoint community. If you have an interesting question and want to share your experience, tell us about it!
A chat session is often much more than answering a question. It’s a teaching moment. To show the way. Even just talking with a librarian can boost someone’s confidence to dig deeper for resources (and ask more questions), which ultimately, gets to a better answer.
Answer: Actually, this chat didn’t get to an answer. The discussion focused on the research path. Paul’s goal was to fill in the gaps and broaden the patron’s research horizons. Some resources included .gov and .org websites, and Paul also introduced him to interlibrary loan. The patron was surprised that not only were print resources relevant, but he could get them from libraries well beyond his county. (Lesson about better research and the value of the library. Check!)
Source: Various sources including:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Animal Cloning website
The Mouse Genomes Project
Opposing viewpoint books suggested for interlibrary loan
You answer a lot of questions. And while most are interesting, there are the gems that make digging for answers especially fun. These are the questions that add to your personal knowledge base, otherwise known as your reference librarian super power. Because who else can wow dinner guests with the latest flower trends, how to grow potatoes and even the history of pillows? (We see you smiling!)
Answer: From carved wood in ancient Egypt to feather-stuffed cloth in Roman times, pillows have had many varieties. But while they’ve been around in some form or another forever it seems, mass production didn’t begin until the 1900s. And the evolution of pillows continues today. It’s highly likely that what you lay your head down to rest on differs from your neighbor!
Source: Various sources including:
Russian periodicals database. (Titles referenced include: Good Pillow Rules, Usage of Pillows in Old Days and Origin of the Word Pillow.*)
Russian State Library OPAC. (Titles referenced include: "Evolutionary History: Traditions and Habits of Ancient Greeks" and "Everyday life in Ancient Rome."*)
*Translated from Russian.
Genealogical questions can be fascinating. But verifying the facts is often difficult. And with very specific questions and limited resources, it's likely an impossible task for a short reference session. The next best thing? Provide guidance for further research!
Answer: In many cases, the answers to these kinds of questions can be found on a person’s death certificate or other legal documents. And although the United States allows dual citizenship, that’s not the case for all countries. So, another good place to start might be the embassy of the other country to verify the laws and ask for additional resources.
*Specific to this answer.
Every reference librarian has had a question that stopped them cold. You know the one … where your immediate instinct is to call the authorities, and to do anything but ask more questions. These are the moments when a calm and collected librarian becomes a superhero. A few on-point clarifying questions and a seemingly odd reference request transforms into an opportunity to advise.
Answer: This is a complicated question as the answer differs depending on the circumstances. However, most sources advise a call to 911 to report the death, unless the person is under hospice care, in which case you could call the hospice or specific contact you’ve been given.
Reference librarians often move fast to get every question answered. So, when things get hectic, it might be tempting to jump to conclusions about a question. But skipping the all-important reference interview could lead to some unintended misunderstandings.
Answer: You think they’re asking about the speech, right? Well, unless you’re a fan of the Broadway hit “Mamma Mia” or you grew up in the 70s, you may not know that along with a very famous “I Have a Dream” speech, there’s also a not-so-well-known Abba song of the same name. Released as a single in 1979, the song was a hit in the United Kingdom, but didn’t make the charts in the United States.
Source: Various online sources
When librarians work reference, they never know what they’re going to get. And sometimes questions come from other librarians. The only thing that’s guaranteed is that they’ll learn something new when it’s all said and done.
Answer: We do not sneeze while sleeping. When we’re in REM sleep, many parts of the body slow down or in some cases shut down, and this includes motor neurons that don’t send signals to the brain. When you do sneeze, your body wakes you up first.
Source: Science Illustrated