October 2, 2008


Funny thing happened this afternoon while I was working Ask a Librarian, our instant message chat reference service. To give you some context, the most common questions we get on this service are about access problems for our online databases, often a frustrating (and generally boring) topic for both the patron and the librarian. Chat reference is usually a rather proper exchange, as far as text chats go, and often concerns bibliographic information. But not today...

[15:58] meeboguest940311: Hi dude whats up

(I'm used to people being occasionally informal on chat, especially the millennials, but this gave me pause. I considered several lines of attack, including some uptight, librarian-y responses, before settling on a laid-back approach.)

[15:59] UMLibraryAskUs: hi
[15:59] UMLibraryAskUs: not much
[15:59] UMLibraryAskUs: what's up with you?

[15:59] meeboguest940311: can you tell me who the cool bald guy who does film is?

[15:59] UMLibraryAskUs: hmm
[15:59] UMLibraryAskUs: at Askwith?

(I was thinking "film" as in videos and DVDs, not film studies.)

[15:59] meeboguest940311: No at the grad
[16:00] UMLibraryAskUs: oh, yes. That's Scott Dennis.

(Scott Dennis is my librarian crush. He knows pretty much everything about electronic resource collection development. He is, in fact, a cool bald guy.)

[16:00] meeboguest940311: Oh yeah, that is his name. Thanks!
[16:00] UMLibraryAskUs: no problem!

[16:00] meeboguest940311: later dude
[16:00] UMLibraryAskUs: l8r

(I was particularly proud of my signoff. All in all, a quick, entertaining exchange.)

I emailed Scott to tell him he's famous -- that pretty much everyone on the library website today is looking for him -- and it turns out he was the patron at the other end of my fun chat:

Katie, I cannot tell a lie… That was me, doing a live demo for a Screen Arts class I was teaching. I wasn’t planning on it, but when I showed the Library Help feature in CTools, a student in the class said, someone is there right now waiting to chat? In a tone of disbelief. So I decided to prove it on the spot. I didn’t want to make whoever was on chat duty actually have to do any research work, and I wanted to be funny, so… It worked like a charm. The class roared with laughter (about 50 of them in Angell Hall Auditorium D), and they were very impressed with your hip current texting style! That’s really a librarian? One asked. I’m very lucky you were the one on duty! Thanks. --Scott

It's been a long week, but now I feel great. I'm so hip, a studio audience of 50 millennials can't even tell I'm a librarian.

[Uptight Librarian Note: I received permission from Scott to post this on the blog; I don't go around randomly publishing patrons' private messages to the internet.]


  1. Wow, Scott D. is as amazing in chat mode as he is in phone mode! I'm jealous.

  2. that has to be the most awesome ask a librarian story. way to represent! i think i need to start using texting abbreviations....

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

  4. You are the coolest person ever for the sign-off and for jumping right into his great scheme. I'm so happy to hear about this! It's just like life, isn't it, to work out so perfectly in these little insignificant ways? I just adore it!!