Stump the Librarian


Here's a great idea for a column in any newspaper. In "Stump the Librarian," Highland reference librarian Larry Freeman uses the San Bernardino County Library's reference system to answer tough questions from the public.


This looks like a similar deal.Is it just me, or does it look like some questions are from people who already know the answer? Is that an appropriate question then?Still, it looks like a good way to advertise a free competition to Google Answers. And boy is it needed; here's three questions that were paid $200 a pop for an answer to, and which most any reference librarian could have answered for free.

The questioners could already know the answers to their questions...but unless the librarian cites a source he or she used to find the answer (which the questioner can look at)how would they know that they are getting the correct answer from the librarian?I believe that most librarians consider it a matter of professional integrity to give a correct answer which can be independently verified...then we really shine.But a few times I have gotten "blown off" or told something "does not exist"...only later to find the answer myself.I realise that everybody works with limits...time, collection, knowledge...collectives of librarians can also beappealed to for an answer...although I realize public library where there are time constraints on finding answers.This happens more often when I try to find historical information which has been collected but not indexed or cataloged very well.But..If I can't find an answer, I tell clients that, and always give them suggestions (good ones not b.s. ones) to try. It doesn't feel good to acknowledge the failure to find an answer...but at least it's honest!

And I'd hope the reference librarian would give a better answer for that second question. I suppose printing out tax codes in 12-point Courier is great if you want to impress people with a stack of paper, but it's absurd otherwise. (Geez. Just what California needs. Another semi-literate "politician" who's going to show us The Way by exposing how absurd the tax code is.)

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