Let’s end reference

A civilian employee of the air station's Personnel Support Detachment waits on a sailor at the customer service desk.

A naval customer service desk, 1987, NARA id 6455480

Let’s end reference. Let’s not do it again. Anymore. When someone comes along later and says, “You know what was fun? Finding answers to questions for people,” let’s silently shun that someone. Let’s end reference.

Let’s end reference, I should specify in archives, although everyone everywhere is free to continue to do reference, and great librarians do reference, and even the rudimentary “The bathrooms are down the stairs, around the bend, to the right” is when and where necessary a true and worthy public service. Let’s end it though for real. Because finding people with the real and active desire to help others and then to ask those people to spend 40 hours a week indoors under fluorescence is backwards. Let’s end reference because it is a silly thing to hire for, like trying to hire a spiny echidna, “I need eggs, but I want a mammal to lay them, please.”

Let’s end reference because it is for older whiter people a form of entertainment, like a Word Find, or a Scavengers’ Hunt. People cold-call us. They fucken wander in off the street because maybe this place has some things. Old white people don’t use the discovery tools we build. They don’t read our fucking newsletter. Old white people don’t read the descriptions we write. Old white people write emails with no subject line and no introduction and just jump into “Can you tell me what is the capitol of South Dakota thank you my phone number” end, end of email, sent from my iPhone by the unending Grace of God. Let’s end reference because Sergey Brin and Larry Page made a magic box that answers numbnut half-baked unfollowupable questions already. I am not your magic box. Go away. Let’s end reference.

Let’s not end reference for people with an actual thing. If I have the burial plot for your grandpappy’s grandpappy, and I have not put it up on the internet already, and goodness me you’ve done a shit-ton of fieldwork, gosh just look at that, please come on in, tell me your story. If there is an unprocessed collection in my dankest lair that might get you the footnotes you need for tenure, come to me, I am your huckleberry. If you need to prove that your tiny private school actually owns the land it’s on and you need to tell a developer to go screw, I am your Friday. If you need to prove that your government exposed you to Agent Orange, damn I should be your huckleberry but I probably am not, and that’s maybe another reason to end reference.

If you need me to scan a photo, or send you a PDF, or send motion pictures off to the telecine men, and by gosh look at that you used our catalog, despite its flaws by Jehovah you fucking did it, then please send me a note. But, if you have an abstract, what-if, I-thought-I-saw-a-thing-once, or Hey-do-you-remember, or What-was-it-like-in-the-olden-times-ass question, or Why-are-there-no-photographs-of-Jesus, then let’s end reference for you and turn that shit over to Quora. Or Ask Reddit Anything. Or your friends, or to strangers, or to a passing cloud. Pray for understanding to come to you. But let’s end reference.

Let’s end reference because it exacts an emotional toll to field randos’ queries and to actually conduct research, and should only be conducted for real. Let’s end the reference encounter for anyone who yells, or huffs, or gets off-topic or in any way out of pocket. Get your answers from the comment section of every Breitbart article.

Let’s not end reference for the poor, the desperate, the curious, the mind-blown, the wind-blown, the disheveled, the lost, the tired, and the broken. Reference is the literal least we can do. Let’s for them end capitalism.

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