Did I panic? Did I laugh in the patron's face? Did I roll my eyes and say, "Yeah, sure, I remember every book I've ever ordered for anyone"?
Nope. I consulted my scratchpad, did a search for "dream," and soon found it: "I ordered Zolar's Encyclopedia of Dream Interpretation for someone on January 28th."
The patron nodded. "Yeah, it was at the end of January."
My coworker went to the shelves and pulled off Zolar's, and handed it to the patron. The patron thumbed through it and said, "Yes, this is the one." Success!
So what's a scratchpad? It's simple Notepad document that I keep open on my desktop whenever I'm on the public service desk. In it, I try to compulsively note down every interaction I have. Card numbers I look up, reference questions I answer, requests I place, equipment problems, who was on the desk with me, shelf checks, behavior problems, all those odd dribs and drabs of information that otherwise I would scribble on scrap paper and throw away. I don't get them all, because sometimes it's pretty busy, but I would say I manage to record a good 90-95%.
Here's what part of it looks like (I've edited out personal information):
1:00 PM 1/28/2010 working with xxx
1:10 PM 1/28/2010 phone 21997xxxxxxxxx what do i have checked out & when are they due?
1:10 PM 1/28/2010 phone do county libraries purchase used hardcover books?
1:14 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx request cdl general knowledge test - also: "bible correspondence book" (patron wanted a concordance)
1:42 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx new registration
1:57 PM 1/28/2010 pub04 problem printing yahoo chat conversation - due to layout of page by yahoo
5:00 PM 1/28/2010 working with xxxx
5:50 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx pub07 patron asked to verify his sam printing balance
6:00 PM 1/28/2010 working with xxxxxx
6:33 PM 1/28/2010 pub06 assistance with aacps.org magnet school acceptance website
6:51 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx request zolar's encyclopedia of dream interpretation
6:59 PM 1/28/2010 phone - are you open on president's day
7:07 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx look up card number
8:06 PM 1/28/2010 21997xxxxxxxxx new registration, sam user instruction
This goes on, day after day, until I fill a whole year. Then I archive that document and start a new one for the new year.
It's fairly easy to do: in Notepad you can hit F5 to insert the current date and time, and I cut-and-paste library card numbers and such. I deliberately try to keep it brief so it won't take much time.
What's the point of all this obsessive notetaking? Because in one case out of a hundred, it comes in handy. Sometimes immediately: patron (without their card, of course) requests some books, then comes back 15 minutes later to request more -- I don't have to look up their number again. Patron says they requested a book two weeks ago and forgot to get it, doesn't remember what it was -- I search by card number and find the title. We're having an information survey and I suddenly realize that I haven't filled out anything for the past three hours -- everything I need is right there.
Am I suggesting that everyone do this? No. (If I did suggest it, would people do it? It is to laugh.) But I CAN testify that it's something I've found useful. If you want to do something similar, give me a call or drop me an email.
PS: It helps if you're a little obsessive-compulsive to begin with.