And I was suddenly on gaurd. I am often asked questions at the reference desk that I take several moments to process:
"How long does chlamydia take to clear up?"
"Will you proof read my resume?"
"How much does a new car cost?"
But this one got me. "What are you?"
Let me build the scene for you.
I was standing at the reference desk, looking pert (as per usual), when a white haired gentleman approached the desk.
I was looking the part of the dapper young man, soft green shirt - green, navy and white polka dotted neck tie. I could go on.
He came up to the desk and said to me "What are you?"
I thought for a minute. Should I just go ahead and reveal that I am a celebrity librarian? I supposed he meant my position within the organization. Often, because I am male, and young, I am mistaken for paraprofessional staff.
And you know how the public likes to reserve their big questions for the librarians.
So, I replied, quite confidently - sure I had the answer he was looking for "I am a Librarian."
He looked confused. "No, no" he muttered while shaking his head in the negative. He tried again "I mean, what are you?"
Isn't it quite obvious what I am? A well dressed, 30 year old, homosexual, Jewish librarian. But I can't say that, right?
Thankfully, my Library School training included the Reference Interview.
And so I asked "I'm not sure what you are asking. What am I? My profession?"
which I already knew he wasn't looking for.
To which he replied "Your background...." Mind you, this is his first question as he approaches the desk.
So, I told him my background "Kent State University." I was proud saying it too.
Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State!
"All those shootings" he said. I assured him it happened long before I attended.
"But you still haven't answered my question. What are you?" So, I had to say it again "Sir, I am not sure what you are asking."
"Ethnically" he said.
I've never been asked that. So gentle readers, I told him. My family is from Eastern France - Alsace.
And that, dear reader, was the entire reference question.
Moral of this blog: Always end each reference transaction with "Did that completely answer your question?" or "Now get away from me." The choice is yours.