Yesterday I was asked if I could help someone find the first known translation of a Russian short story (from the early 17th century) into German. In no time flat I’d found a bibliography and was composing my email response when I realized she’d asked for first translation into German… not English, and no bibliographies we have would record such a date.
Scrapping that email I wrote another one about using WorldCat to find bibliographies of this author’s works, and then limiting the language to German, because a German bibliography might just record the date she needed. (I don’t think she quite understood my response, though, but that’s another story.)
Anyway, then one of my co-workers pointed out that the University of Illinois has a whole library devoted to modern languages, and they might have such a bibliography. And sure enough, their catalog returned a record for something that looked promising, if only I could read the German. But I didn’t really want to ILL the enter book on the off chance that it contained the date I needed, so I hopped onto their As A Librarian page and, on a whim, chose the chat option. I’ve never been on this end of chat reference, so I was curious to see it in action.
I explained who I was and what I needed, and the librarian was very friendly and helpful, but in the end had me email my request so that she could give it to someone with an actual command of the languages in question.
This more specialized librarian found what I needed in a Russian-language bibliography, even scanning the page from the bibliography (which I still can’t read) so that my patron could see all the information.
What helpful people! And I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed starting out my quest via chat so that I could clarify myself when the librarian didn’t understand what I needed without having to play email tag. By the time I composed the email I was much more confident that I’d be able to write a question that the librarian on the other end would understand.
I’ve always been hesitant to ask for help from people I don’t know. Before library school I had never in my life asked a librarian for help. But every time I have an interaction like this a little more of that old hesitancy dies. World, beware.