Bulletin, April/May 2007


Editor’s note: SIG CON has been both an institution and a high point of ASIS&T Annual Meetings since 1975. For SIG CON aficionados and those needing an introduction to its mission, Candy Schwartz has compiled an extensive history and archive of these august proceedings (available at http://web.simmons.edu/~schwartz/con/sig-con-sess.html), although her compilation is confined to those items that are of a “particular scholarly interest” and suitable for family viewing. The SIG CON presentations of Steve Hardin, former ASIS&T executive board member and frequent Bulletin contributor, are among those most rowdily anticipated by the table-pounding mob, aka “the scholarly audience of information scientists.” In 2006 Steve seems, as he explains below, to have been bedeviled by a fiend in patron form. We were only glad that Steve recovered sufficiently to relate this encounter. As he said by way of introduction, “This evening’s theme is ‘Reality Information.’ As a practicing academic reference librarian, I offer you a rendition of an information need. Is it reality? Is it fantasy? You be the judge!”

The Patron

by Steve Hardin

Steve Hardin works in the Cunningham Memorial Library at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN 47809. He can be reached by email at shardin1<at>isugw.indstate.edu

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a stupid question that had made my job a bore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
As a patron, loudly rapping, rapping to drown out my snore,
“’Tis another one,” I muttered, “rapping on the desk once more –
Just a patron, nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak November,
When the students’ weekend benders wrought their ghosts upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow – vainly had I sought to borrow
From databases end of sorrow – sorrow for each grinding chore.
For the endless stupid questions that were served up by the score.
They seemed to last forevermore. 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer
Up I gazed, and saw a patron, a patron who’d come through the door.
He or she was loudly fretting, as they fumbled, papers getting,
“Sorry,” said I, “may I help you? Help you with your research chore?”
Deep I gazed into the eyes, which seemed rather misted o’er. 
Just a question, nothing more. 

Deep into those eyes a-peering, long I sat there wondering, fearing,
Doubting if this patron had an info need I’d met before.
“Aha!” it said, the face upturning, “Here’s the thing for which I’m yearning,
The question which my mind is burning – like no query did before:
Who wrote Poe’s “The Raven?” Tell me truly, I implore!”
Only that, and nothing more.

“Moron!” thought I, “thing of evil! Moron still, and maybe devil!
What kind of nincompoop would question when the answer came before?
Doesn’t he or she yet understand the author’s name is like a brand?
That it identifies the poet, or composer of the score?”
But aloud I could not speak thus – I’d lose the job that I adore.
Perhaps my paycheck, maybe more.

Back unto the patron turning, gathering all the dregs of learning,
I tried to put a smile on features that were numb before.
“But, you see, you know it’s Poe. No further do you need to go.
You’re done! Finito! You can add this factoid to your knowledge store.”
I wrote the answer on a sheet, the page from out my notebook tore. 
Quoth the patron, “Nevermore.” 

“But you can go now,” I retorted, “The thing you seek has been reported,
You’ve got the answer – Poe’s the author – from a century of yore.
Hie thee to some distant website, take a walk out through the dark night, 
But rest assured the answer is right – and you know more than before.”
The patron got up, turned around, then headed for the library door.
And then it vanished – nothing more. 

“I’m glad it’s gone,” my heart was singing, then the desk phone started ringing,
So I picked it up and answered, “Reference Desk – answers galore!”
But the caller sounded craven, “Who wrote E.A. Poe’s “The Raven?” 
An extremity of saving kept the poor phone off the floor.
Blackness swam before my eyes – it was the voice I’d heard before!
“The answer’s Poe – and nothing more!”

Slamming down the phone receiver, I’d become a true believer
That this patron or deceiver should not call me anymore.
With synapses wildly firing, then I fiddled with the wiring
Then stood – my work admiring – this phone’s kaput – its work days o’er. 
Though the deed was quite destructive, I could be at peace once more.
I’d hear the patron – nevermore.

With these thoughts in my mind leaping, the Ref Desk PC started beeping
The email question alert a-bleeping, like a buzzer on a door.
So I clicked the window open, all the while intensely hopin’
That the question I’d be copin’ with was one not seen before.
Oh! If only this new question was not one I’d seen before!
“Who wrote Poe’s ‘Raven?’” Nothing more. 

“Jerk!” I screamed, “Evil person! Why mock me? Make things worsen?
What pleasure do you get from making ref librarians sore? 
But for your stupid query that’s making my eyes bleary
And my whole darn body weary – I’d be useful - as before!”
So I pressed the ol’ DELETE key, then erased the program’s core.
There’d be email – nevermore! 

But once again the PC sounded, terrible – my thoughts abounded
The song was neatly grounded in an Instant Message score.
Even though my mind was reeling, and my hands had lost their feeling,
Evil thoughts were fast congealing; I could not the frame ignore –
Once again there came the query I had come to quite abhor:
“Poe’s ‘The Raven?’” Nothing more. 

“Be that word our sign of parting, patron-fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting –
“And now will I ensure that you will trouble me no more!”
With a laugh approaching madness, and no trace of any sadness,
And in fact a little gladness, from its mounting I it tore - 
Thus I seized the Reference PC and I smashed it on the floor!
It smoked a little, nothing more. 

And the patron, never shirking, still is lurking, still is lurking
While they wrapped me in straitjacket and then dragged me out the door.
Yes, the patron’s out there smiling, with its questions most beguiling, 
And our sanity defiling – and stupidity galore!
And if you’re on the reference desk when it comes across the floor - 
You’ll be free – ah, nevermore!