At work today, a patron asked me how to spell a couple of words.  I always think it’s funny when someone asks me to do that because for someone with a master’s degree in English, I’m a pretty terrible speller.  I managed both of today’s words without having to look anything up, which is a nice ego boost, but I’m still surprised when I’m called upon to do it.  A few months back, there was a man who used to fairly regularly approach me and ask how to spell different things.  One afternoon, he asked how to spell ‘lettuce’ and later ‘cabbage,’ but then things took a darker turn as he asked how to spell ‘alcohol,’ ‘marijuana,’ ‘intoxicated,’ ‘assault,’ and ‘angrify.’  We spelled that last one E-N-R-A-G-E-D.  On the one hand, I found this fascinating, like a reverse sort of Mad Lib.  I spent most of the afternoon trying to come up with a story that contained all of those words.  On the other hand, it would never occur to me to ask a librarian how to spell something.  I would ask how to get online so I could look it up, or I would ask where I could find a dictionary, but I wouldn’t take the direct route and just ask the thing I really wanted to know.

 

Working in a library is interesting because I discovered people call us to find out all kinds of things.  When I first got the job, someone called to ask what sort of Easter activities were happening around town, which threw me because I’d just moved and wasn’t familiar with local traditions, but also because if I wanted to know that, I’d probably call any of the local churches, the most relevant city government office I could find in the phone book, or the local newspaper and poll my neighbors before I called the library.  Someone recently wanted to know what time a local skating rink opened, which was a much trickier question than it should have been since the rink didn’t feel they should have either an answering machine or a website that gave their hours.  A patron who overheard me on the phone actually gave me the answer, for which I’m truly grateful. 

 

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When I emailed some friends and mentioned the variety of questions I’d been researching, two of them anonymously called up to ask me: “What does it mean if it burns when I pee?”  I stammered a bit, and basically told them what I wanted to tell the lady who brought in her art for us to appraise: Perhaps you should consult a professional.  I don’t want to underestimate what I can do with a liberal arts education and the power of the internet, but…