Settling a heated debate in a reasonable manner

Dear Library Answer Person,

I have two friends who are currently embroiled in a heated debate about the phylogeny of bears. One friend asserts that polar bears and grizzly bears share a common ancestor. The other maintains that polar bears are descendants of the grizzly bear. Despite numerous attempts to find a conclusive answer, they have yet to settle the conflict. I was wondering if you could lend your expertise.

Thank you,

The Mediator

Really?! You have two friends who are “embroiled in a heated debate about the phylogeny of bears.”  I’m not buying it.  And if it’s true, good gracious (!), you need to get some new friends.  My solution: let your two friends go at each other and find out which is the grizzly and which is the salmon.


Your presence in Perkins is missed! How are you doing?

How do you make that emoticon to suggest blushing? I’m enjoying retirement, thank you. Did you see my picture on the front page of this morning’s Durham Herald Sun?

Finding the so-called needle in the haystack

I would like to repond to people claiming that hispanics are taking jobs that other Americans want by quoting a study I heard about last year. According to that study, something like 30,000 people responded to an advertisement for an actual job but when they found out what the conditions actually were, only the hispanics would accept the work. I have searched but can’t find this study… Can you help me?

I can indeed! First, let me applaud you for trying to raise the level of discourse by bringing in data rather than succumbing to the emotional. Second, let me point you to Duke University Libraries’ tremendous reference staff, who are more than happy (and much more qualified than I am) to assist you in searching databases to find this needle in the haystack. Go to the Libraries web site, click on the AskUsNOW! button in the upper right corner, and ask your question. They’ll have excellent ideas on how to tailor your search to track down the article or study and, more importantly, others like it.

Cite this!

I have a professor who wants the class to cite ourselves as references for a speech we’re giving. How do I go about citing myself?

Probably depends on whether your bibliography is MLA or APA style. But this is the perfect question for the Libraries’ superb reference staff. In the upper right hand corner of the Libraries’ home page, click on the AskUsNOW! button and a chat box will open on your screen. A reference librarian will give you the answer, and they won’t consider subjecting you to an acerbic comment like the one I’m restraining myself from including here.

Hear Answer Person in the deep heart's core

Where did the answer book go?  Can we see it somewhere?  Can you find someone else to keep answering questions, although I doubt he/she will be able to fill your epic shoes…?

With the assistance of a Pratt alum who has connections at NASA, the book is being prepared to be launched into space as part of a time capsule.  So soon you will be able to see it when you cast your gaze to the night sky.

As you know from my recent post announcing my retirement, I will continue to answer questions submitted online.  I’ll reconsider, though, when I start receiving questions with unseemly ASCII art embedded.  Big swell arriving at Inch Strand on Monday morning.  Join me in the line up.  Aloha!

Should it stay or should it go now?

A lot of times a book I need is at the Service Center and it takes a day or two for it to arrive. Now, I don’t have a problem with this, but often when I’m perusing the stacks I notice a large number of foreign-language titles. Maybe I’m ignorant, but I can’t imagine there’s a ton of demand for books in, say, Romanian. It seems to me like it would make more sense to stock Perkins with books written in good old English and leave the foreign-language stuff in the Service Center. Am I missing something here? Who determines which books are given shelf space in Perkins and which ones are in the Service Center?

With apologies to The Clash, when considering which materials to move, we realized “if it goes there will be trouble, and if it says it will be double.”  In other words, we knew we weren’t going to make everyone happy.

The criteria used initially to assess movement of materials to the Library Service Center (LSC) was the 10 / 10 rule: anything published more than ten years ago that circulated less than ten times would go to the LSC.  Of course, you can always request that material you will need frequently be moved back to Perkins/Bostock.  And, you do realize there’s a Slavic and Eurasian Studies Program at Duke, don’t you?

Answer Person Retires

For the past 28 years, I’ve enjoyed answering your questions about life and the Libraries.  But, alas, it was time for me to retire.APonDP Over the years, I’ve been inspired by your curiosity, at times challenged by your obscure references, and always flattered that you were reading.  At other times, I must admit, I’ve been exhausted by the repetition (so many questions about a certain unofficial graduation requirement that’s supposed to be fulfilled in the library).

Some faithful readers might be curious about what I’ll do next.  I plan to travel a bit with a special someone and do all of the things I dreamed of doing while working.  For the immediate future, I’ve rented a cottage overlooking Inch Strand in County Kerry, where I paddle out to surf only when the waves are overhead.  Durham will remain home.

You’ll have noticed that I removed the question book from the lobby before leaving a few weeks ago; but I’ll continue to answer your online questions for as long as I’m able.  Now back to my pint.  Slainte!