Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finals Week Top Ten Things I Can't Believe From the Reference Desk

So it’s finally finals.  I’ve been working on the reference desk even more than usual, (19 hours the past 7 days), as students turn in final papers and prepare for exams and I’ve been very surprised at some of the things I’ve been asked.  It’s not that we don’t get crazy requests throughout the year, (along with a plethora of intelligent and respectful queries), but finals can bring out the worst in a student. So, for your reading pleasure, I’ve developed in true Letterman fashion:

Finals Week Top Ten Things I CAN’T Believe From the University Reference Desk*

#10.  Your paper is done, now you just need to find those pesky Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journal articles so that you can do your bibliography.   (And your paper is due in 5 minutes.)

#9.  You are a senior, this is your first time in the library and you would like for me to explain to you, “How it works.”  (And your paper is due in 5 minutes.)

#8.  You need me, as the only librarian on duty, to leave the reference desk and go up to the staff lounge, or wherever "this building" has a microwave, and carefully follow the directions on the package in order to heat up your frozen dinner.  (It’s okay, you’ll wait, but you need it in 5 minutes.)

Student: Hi. I’m a grad student. I can’t find a book on the shelf or in the catalog that my professor requested that the library buy at the beginning of the semester.
Me: Have you checked with the professor about the book since then?
Student: No.
Me: Have you checked with the library since then?
Student: No.
Me: What was the book?
Student: “Potential Genome Patterns of the Rattus Rodentius from Mars Zone 12.”
Me: (Checking catalog – no sign of book or order.) Hmmmm. Did you check back with the professor to make sure we ordered the book?
Student: (Beginning to get agitated.) Well, no, but you’re the library. I just assume you have an unlimited budget to buy books. I mean, you’re the library!
Me: (Stifling a guffaw.) Well, we can check with other libraries to see if you can get it somewhere else…
Student: Are you serious! ?! You don’t have the book?!?
Me: I’m sorry it doesn’t look like it was ordered. Maybe we can get it from somewhere else. When do you need it?

#6. Upon entering the library you walk straight up to the reference desk to inform me that you can’t find a computer anywhere in the library and you need to print your paper and get across campus to turn it in, IN THE NEXT 5 MINUTES. (Follow up conversation involves mounting ire from the student as I explain the 15 step process of HOW to print.)

#5. You’ve been up in the stacks for an hour without a call number or any idea of the area or even floor in which you should be searching and you STILL cannot find the calligraphy section!  (annnnnnd you need a reference to add to your paper that is due –say it with me- in 5 minutes.)

#4. Since I can probably do it, in like 5 minutes, you’re just going to attach your USB drive to my computer reeeeallly quickly and then I can arrange all of your citations into APA format for you. (Oh, and you need to email this to your prof. in 5 minutes.)

#3. You need me to get you the book/article/paper/story for your English 102 class but you don’t know what it’s called or who it’s by, and the assignment IS DUE IN 5 MINUTES!!

#2. You need me to tell you where the textbooks** are and which ones you need for your specific classes.  (I did mention this is finals week, right?)

#1.   You were working on your final paper at one of the library computers WITHOUT:  
a) saving it to your personal drive given to each university student
b) saving it on a USB drive
c) burning it onto a disk
d) saving it to the desktop and then resending it in an email to yourself
e) printing it and storing it in a lock box
f) tattooing it in blood onto your belly, etc. etc..  
 And now you can’t find it anywhere and it’s DUE IN 5 MINUTES!!!!!!!!

*Some requests may have been slightly exaggerated, but only in an ever so wee way.
**Like many libraries, we do not carry textbooks as that would more than exceed our book budget.  We try to purchase materials that will supplement all the great learning students should be doing THROUGH OUT THE WHOLE SEMESTER with the aid of the text book they should have acquired 4 MONTHS AGO.


  1. This reminds me why I enjoy walking through our Reading Room on the way to my hobbit hole downstairs.

  2. Now that I am a (ehem), "distinguished" faculty member I try to keep the inanity that left my lips as an unfiltered grad student, to a minimum. (I'm sure that will all change once I get tenure. heh heh.)

  3. You have the students of Towson to thank for that, Tony.