“There are eight million stories in the naked city, this is one of them.”
The Naked City (1948) was an academy award winning film depicting a cop solving a murder. Generally, both the film and the television series that followed showed the seedy underbelly of New York City. Think of it as a kind of Law and Order for its day. Libraries, too, have a seedy underbelly. Civilians rarely understand the variety of patrons that wander through the door. I am not even talking about the rude customer stories. Everyone has rude patrons. What I want to hear is the weird stuff.
In my own career I have had my share of stories. Here are a few samples:
- The patron that needed to get in touch with Larry King in order to share the cure for AIDS
- The patron wanting information on certain algorithms so he could decipher the government codes stuck inside the television signal
- The patron that wanted information on invisible people
- The patron that needed a photo of Jesus
Whenever I hear librarians talk about what they won’t do or won’t tolerate, I am immediately suspicious. Everyone has preferences. I like business reference and reader’s advisory. I am not as comfortable with gardening or music oriented questions. (Confession: I had to Google One Direction the other day and my first thought was driving directions.) This doesn’t mean I get to dodge hard questions. I did have to endure some mocking from co-workers. I responded by asking them if they knew Steely Dan or the Edgar Winter Group.
Library service at the core is about saying yes to the crazy, outside the box questions. The library is probably the only place in the entire world where any question is worth asking. Embracing odd questions and those that ask them, is how you develop as a researcher. Remember, the path less traveled is probably more interesting anyway.
Embrace your naked library and all the eight million stories.