At the ref desk--remarkable!

I'm continually surprised at the personal stories that patrons share in the course of trying to find information. Yesterday, a 20-something guy came in, looking for an article about a new Illinois law that extends the statute of limitations for people who, as children, were molested by clerics. I found an article, but wanted to find the statute. Since it's so new, it hadn't been added to the statutes, so it was taking me a long time. While we were looking, the guy, without any sort of prompting, spilled his whole story to me. The armchair psychologist in me was trying to figure out his motive for telling me this very personal story, but regardless of the reason, I found it remarkable and was reminded of the awesome responsibility that sometimes comes to us as information providers. This guy knows nothing about me, my viewpoint, my education or training, but he trusted me to help him with something that would be best handled by a counselor and a lawyer, all because I'm a LIBRARIAN. This isn't a unique situation--I'm sure you all have similar stories. It's just humbling and, at times, alarming, to realize how much power and authority some people assume librarians have.


Then there's this guy, I'll call him Leering Lonnie. LL is a regular--been coming in since I started here. We've got a stack of incident reports on him for various things--abuse of computer privileges, printing without paying, paying inappropriate attention to staff, snooping and my favorite--using our empty file cabinet space to store his personal documents (his very own mini-storage!). Most recent offense was slipping a mash note to one of the staff who found it creepy and unsettling (he's been warned about this sort of thing before). This got him a three-month ticket out of the library. But, like a bad penny, he'll be back.

I wouldn't be too humbled by the trust people place in you at the reference desk. I had a woman at a coffee shop tell me about her abortion about 20 years ago, and more recently I heard the details of a "high maintenance mother" from a woman visiting from another state. I don't think they knew I was a librarian.