Wow, last night at the library I got my first reference question about… sex! I’ll give you a quick breakdown of the “reference interview”:
Patron: “Do you have any books about the human body?”
Me: “What aspect of the human body are you interested in? ”
Patron: Blank stare, shuffles awkwardly.
Me: “Are you looking for something like a general medical text?”
Patron: “… Yes.”
So, we head over to the 613s, and as we’re walking, the patron says: “Actually, I didn’t want to embarrass you in front of the other librarians, but I’m looking for books on sex.” Wow, ok! So, maintaining a very professional composure, I asked him what, specifically, he was interested in — physiological texts? Or perhaps something a little more romantic? The patron insisted that he was interested in purely medical, scientific tomes only. Then, he finally showed me a list of similar titles to give me an idea: Drive Your Woman Wild In Bed. Secrets of the Sexually Satisfied Woman. The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex. You get the idea. I kept thinking: “This is the classic textbook reference interview scenario, where the patron is too shy to ask for what he really wants. Except, also not so classic. In fact, totally bizarre!
The patron, as it turns out, was also interested in sexy video instruction materials(!). Unfortunately, our library doesn’t own anything of this nature. I suggested that he look in the WorldCat catalog and then try to ILL any items of interest… although I don’t really know how well that’s going to go over with our ILL specialist! But afterward I found myself wondering: should I have tried to steer him toward some internet resources? Or would that just have been toooo weird? I’m still on the fence about it, although I am glad I kept everything nice and professional, for his sake as well as mine. But the question remains, dear librarian: how far should we step outside our comfort zones in the name of helping our patrons really get to the heart of the matter?
Anyway, at the end of the night, I was thrilled to help out this purported newly-wed, and also his new wife. I had to bite my tongue not to say what I often say to information seekers at the end of an encounter, which is usually: “Good luck!”