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Wednesday, August 9, 2006


Posted by on August 9 at 12:41 PM

If you ever want to know anything, that’s the number to call—the library’s quick information line. Anything at all. Yes, there’s always Google, but what if you don’t know how to ask your question in the Google search field? What if you like a little human understanding with your research?

The question of the morning: How the hell does the water cooler in the office heat up water so quickly? I was trying to pour hot water into a cup. One or two drops. The jug on top had run out. I replaced the jug. Right away, I press the hot water spigot. Boiling hot water gushes into my cup. How?

I call 386-4636. Dave picks up. I explain my question and describe the water cooler we have. Dave:

We used to have one here. I believe it’s an instant hot water thing. It could be there’s a little hot water tank in there but I don’t think so. Do you know what make and model it is?

Put him on hold, go turn the water cooler around, get down on my hands, find a long number under the word “model”: F323HB040-RW210. No company name on the machine, no discernable logo.

Dave thinks this might be a model number combined with a serial number, does some typing, asks what company provides our water. I tell him it’s All Water. He puts me on hold. A minute or so later he comes back:

OK. Thanks for waiting. I called All Water here in Seattle, and they said if you have hot and cold, the hot side is instant hot water—I don’t know if you’re familiar with instant hot water machines, but they heat the water in copper tubing that’s surrounded by coils, which heats the water almost instantly—but the water in the cold side is held in a little refrigerated tank. If you were to run the cold water tap continuously, when that reservoir is empty, it would become room temperature. They don’t use a hot water tank on the hot side because it would be more expensive to make a whole tank, and you only need a little at a time, as opposied to taking a bath.

Dave, ladies and gentlemen.

CommentsRSS icon

Librarian reference staff are in general the finest human beings on the planet. Catalogers and circ staff are pretty awesome too. The best thing about reference librarians is this: not WILL they help you, not only DO they help you, but they are absolutely DYING to help you. Seriously, they want nothing more. And nothing frustrates them more than seeing people who think it would be dumb or rude to ask.

Librarians are HOT. Did you know it's the new hipster profession?

Wow, that's fantastic! The SPL has year-long waiting lists for virtually every new book, but they pay for a guy to answer your inane questions about water coolers.

w00t, Frizzelle. Good work.

That's great! I knew NYC had one of those (there was a great article in the Times a while back) - actually, I think my great aunt worked there once - but I didn't know we had one.

Slashing reference staff isn't going to help the book budget.

You didn't know we had a library?

As the brother of an accomplished Reference Librarian, I have to second Fnarf. They really DO love to help people! It's pretty awesome. Now back to work, Frizzelle.

Har-har, cite. I meant a number you could call to get any question answered.

Yeah, it's called a reference desk. Every library has one. Try it: go up and ask them something. You will be amazed.

Librarian chic was ten years ago, but the wonderfulness goes on forever.

Better still, Seattle Public Library offers reference via a 24/7 chat service that they share with libraries around the country.

I love SPL for this service. I called them up after a dispute over what time it was in Manila. We got the current time and I lost ten dollars, but it was worth it.

Ok, I will stand up and say I had NO IDEA that libraries had people who do this. I would have assumed that if you asked any member of the library staff a question, they would say, "How the fuck would I know, but take a peek behind me, moron: BOOKS. Look it up! Geezus."

So, I am happily storing this number in my phone, for those random questions that come up on roadtrips and whatnot. I'm absolutely delighted.

Thanks! :D

I used to work at Seattle Public Library, in IT, and I hated it when I had to work on the reference librarian's computer. People would come up to the desk and ask things like how long we were going to keep that brain-scanner going into the men's room operational. Usually the reference librarian was still at their station and would field the questions, but sometimes they assaulted me, the poor, ignorant sys ad, who is unaware of the function of the brain-scan units. I did once ask the librarian, after such a patron departed, if they kept a stock of tinfoil in the top drawer...

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