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international librarian of mystery

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Smoking Mouse

warning: some kiwi vowels in use.

I hid out on Monday night, and only caught up with Josh when we were rostered onto Issues together on Tuesday. He told me that my blog retelling of his school-days playground accident had caused some mirth at his expense.

"I was on the info desk, telling a guy where the toilets are, left, right, past the magazines, left, and Bella said 'you're sure you don't mean right, left, right?'"
"And people telling me to 'not poo my pants' is getting rool old."
"Ah, diddums."

I shouldn't have been so flippant. The very next shift I was on Reference with Mrs Oolong - our first encounter since my 'outing'.

"Morning, Mrs Oolong."

Nothing. She took her seat and made busy with some reference items that had been dumped on the desk by patrons.

Ouch. Icy. It was going to be a long shift.

Now, the thing is Mrs Oolong is a wucked reference librarian. She knows her old school printed sources like the back of her hand. If you need to know the name of every opera that features the character Figaro, what river inspired Daedulus to build the labyrinth, or the GDP of Liechtenstein in 1957, then Mrs Oolong is your lady. But when it comes to the online and immediate world, well, I'd like to think I hold not only the upper hand, but also the lower hand and both feet.

Things were set up for a reference show-down. An unsuspecting patron - an innocuous middle-aged corporate drone walked up to the desk and addressed us both.

"Sorry to bother you, do you keep speeches made by MPs?" he asked.

Mrs Oolong, as my senior, tackled the reference interview...

"Yes we do. Is there anyone in particular you're after?"
"Um, yes, a John Tamihere speech."
"Any of his speeches in particular? The one from his recent resignation from his cabinet portfolio? His speech on the role of what it is to be a kiwi man?"
"Yes, yes, that's the one."
"Ah well, let me see, that might be in..."
"I've got it," I said, pointing to my monitor. As they'd talked I'd already googled and found Brash's 'Orewa', Tamihere's 'Kiwi Man', and Trevor Mallard's 'Indigenous Pakeha' speeches.

Mrs Oolong's head whipped around, and she narrowed her eyes at me.

"Is that on the internet?"
"Um, yes?"
"How can you be sure it's authoritative?"
"It's in the John Tamihere section of the Labour Party website."
"That looks perfect," said the patron, peering round at the screen. "Can I get a print-out of that?"
"Yes. That'll be twenty cents a page. If I cut and paste the text out so we don't print out all this extraneous stuff, it'll be ... two pages. Unless you want all the website graphics and whatnot?"
"No. That would be great. Could you just include the web address at the top as well. I need to cite my source."
"Of course. Aaaaand, done."

I handed over the pages. The patron paid and left with a cheery 'thanks!'.

I resisted the temptation to hold up my mouse like a gun and blow it like a smoking gun, but only just.