Why is the sky blue?
Sherryl James (clockwise from front) Laurie Adams, Kleo Hidalgo and Nancy Lightsey make up the research librarian staff at Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
When will Mars be aligned for another viewing? How can I tell if my turtle is pregnant?
These are just a few of the questions the four-person reference staff at Warren C. Gibbs Memorial Library face daily.
"There is no normal. That's what's amazing," said Laurie Adams, a part-time reference specialist at the library.
People have asked everything from where to find a peach cobbler recipe from a 1989 edition of "Southern Living" to a recipe explaining how to cook muskrat, said Sherryl James, head of reference services.
But none of it is a problem, the reference specialists say.
"We actually have a book that tells you how to cook muskrat," James said with a laugh.
When people enter the library with a question, the reference staff steps into their new role.
"Our jobs have shifted from the traditional stereotypical librarian,'' said Kleopatra "Kleo" Hidalgo, who has been a young adult reference specialist at the Gibbs library for about four years. "We're now information technology."
And from more generic needs to finding information for school projects to in-depth genealogical searches, the reference staff agrees it's the challenge to find an answer that they enjoy about their job.
James, who has worked at Gibbs for four years, said she spent more than three years on a single search to help an area teen locate both his father and the family he never knew. Using early 1900s census and death records, now available online, James was able to locate the family.
"I sat there with the name of the man and the name of the family and a phone number for almost six months thinking this can't be him," James said. "...It was just amazing to be able to find the family.
"Genealogy is not one of our primary functions, but just the challenge of the search really got me involved in it and to be able to help them out like that... They are actually planning a reunion get-together."
Adams, who has spent seven years off and on at Gibbs library, said the reference staff also gets a lot of medical and legal questions. Most people with medical questions need information about a diagnosis not provided by a physician. Legal questions, often dealing with divorce and child custody, can be sensitive, the staff says.
"We can pull up the Georgia code, but we cannot interpret it for them," Hidalgo said.
James said her staff also reads books and book reviews, and purchases books for the library.
"We've got over 80,000 books in here right now. We're planning the new collection right now also,'' James said. "It's a monster trying to pick out all those titles."
After the move next year to a new library in Evans, workers at Gibbs will have more room, including offices to write grants in.
James said her staff will expand by one reference librarian and a reference specialist. She said the library currently has six public computers, which will be expanded in the new location to 30 in the adult section and 15 in the children's section.
"We're sure they will get used," James said.
Still, the need of a librarian, they say, also seems to continue to be in high demand.
"There's always the controversy, do we need libraries any more with the computer?" Adams said. "Do we need librarians? And yes, the Internet is there, but you need guardians and guidance of people who know how to use it to assist you."
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