“Do you have any dictionaries published between 1910 and 1960?”
“I’m certain we’ll have some at the Book Fair in July.”
“No, I need to check one right now.”
Answering the telephone at the Book Fair is always a venture into the unknown. This is why I chirp so gleefully when I hear the ring. (It may not sound like a chirp to the passing witness. It MIGHT sound like a string of extremely deletable expletives. It’s sad that no one recognizes a chirp of glee nowadays. What ARE they teaching in the schools?)
It’s ALMOST always “Can I drop off books?” or “Can you pick up my books?” But I’m never sure whether my callers want to know something about the Book Fair, want to ask about the Newberry generally, or just want to talk. Everyone who works at a library must be ready, of course, to answer any sort of reference question.
“Hi! Is the Library open right now?”
“Thank you!” (Click!)
There’s a young lady who calls me about every six months to discuss her book collection. She’s not, so far as I can tell, asking about donating it or asking me to come pick it up or asking an expert to come from the Newberry and tell her if the collection’s any good. She just likes to call and tell me what she has, and how much she’s always loved the Newberry. If it will help keep the second half of that sentence true, I’ll discuss her books, even if they are the same ones she called to tell me about last time.
“I don’t have any books to give you, but I don’t know what to do with all my bookcases.”
“We really can’t store any….”
“Oh, I don’t want to give them away. I wondered if someone on your staff would like to buy some.”
In general, the caller is good-natured and eager to be pleasant. And I have no way of telling until we get into the conversation whether there may be something good for the Book Fair waiting in the background. And one wants to be helpful: it’s a library, after all.
“Are there any really good places to eat in your neighborhood? I don’t want anything too expensive, like McDonald’s.”
And it might be a test. There are such things as Secret Shoppers, who are hired by research firms to check on the attitude of the staff when confronted by a confused customer. I have yet to be handed a bonus check for my great performance on the phone, but neither have I been threatened with a pink slip for failing a needy caller.
“Can I get to the Newberry by coming east on the Eisenhower?”
“To tell the truth, I don’t know what coming east on the Eisenhower will get you. We’re on Walton Street.”
“You’re as bad as the CTA website!” (Click!)
I need to check my listing on our website, I think. Has someone defined me as the person to call when you don’t know who might know the answer? Or is my name followed by “Will not hang up on you no matter how murky the question?” I do hang up, sometimes, though generally it’s just on calls that promise if I hang on, a representative is waiting to make me an attractive offer on vinyl siding.
“Hi! Is this the Newberry? Do you work there?”
Um, no. This is Dial-a-Blogger.