The Funnest Reference Question of All Time

We’ve been at the new library for three and a half years now, so people are slowly getting used to the phone system. They still sometimes push the button for the front desk when what they really want is the Children’s Room, but that’s okay–that’s why we’re here, to direct them where they need to go.

Sometimes, though, I’ll get a call that turns into a reference question, and rather than sending it to the Reference Desk, I’ll just take care of it myself. I’ve answered questions like, “How far is it to Chicago from here?” and “How do you spell cappuccino?” Something like that happened a while ago, and I turned out to be almost giddily glad that I stuck around for the question. This turned out to be my favorite reference question of all time.

Me: This is the library, how can I help you?

Patron: Hi! So, um, I read in one of those trivia things in the newspaper that summer on Uranus is, like, 34 years long.

Me (listening; can hear only sincerity in the patron’s voice when they mention “Uranus”; decide they honestly want to find out the answer to a question): Uh huh?

Patron: Has anyone ever gone to Uranus? Like astronauts or someone?

Me (still monitoring patron’s voice for giggles; finding none; deciding to be professional and answer the question): No, NASA hasn’t sent any manned spacecraft out that far.

Patron: So no one’s landed there?

Me: No, it’s too far, we haven’t sent humans there yet. Besides, it’s a gas giant; there’s really nowhere TO land a spaceship.

Patron: So if no one’s there, what does it MATTER if the summer is 34 years long?

Me: ….    …..     …. Well, I suppose that’s a question everyone has to answer for ourselves, don’t we?

The patron was perfectly satisfied with this. I was quietly delighted, and I got to (sort of) answer a reference question. Everyone wins!


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