What’s New at the Library Reference Desk

November 8, 2023
Rand Hall, Head of Reference and Adult Services, does a lot more than point patrons to encyclopedias at the Bedford Free Public Library. Photo from 2014 when Hall started working at the Library.

A reference Librarian wears many hats these days.  Just ask Rand Hall, who is Head of  Reference and Adult Services at the Bedford Free Public Library. When his “day job” is over, you might find Rand doing stand-up comedy at one of the local area’s “open mic” venues.  It’s a new interest of his and when asked where he finds his material, Rand said “Oh, political issues or observations of people.”

He was elated recently to actually, as he said “receive pay for a performance,” which he feels gives him professional status. 

His major work, of course, is the services he provides to the community on the reference desk at the Library. Today’s reference work is more complex than simply fielding questions on “where do I find?” (fill in the blanks.) Visitors to the Library often need help of a more technologically advanced kind. And that’s where Hall’s special talents come into play. 

For instance, there is no longer a public-use copier in the Library (the company providing this service decided to end it), which means a patron can either choose to go down to the local UPS store and pay for copies or Hall can help the user scan a document and then print it. It’s a bit more complex, but it’s free and Hall is there to assist. 

Recently, Rand said, a patron with low vision needed help installing library apps on their computer. Support services such as this are part of Hall’s “Book a Librarian”  office hours, offered every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. With a phone call to the Library, you can reserve a 30-minute session for one-on-one tech help to learn how to check out eBooks and eAudio, use online resources, set up new online accounts, and organize digital photographs.  To get help, phone 781-275-9440, ext. 3. 

Hall’s “Book a Librarian” office hours are offered Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Staff Image

Hall described another rewarding patron interaction that involved a researcher who needed help locating references in journals and books, perhaps a more typical reference service. 

Rand Hall joined the Bedford Library staff in 2014. During an initial interview with The Citizen at that time, he mentioned that he was an enthusiastic video gamer, a hobby he still enjoys. In looking at the information world outside the Library, Rand mentioned he follows a website called Ground News (https.//web.ground.news) that presents the news from multiple perspectives, categorizing the reporting on a scale from left to center to right. As for today’s hot issue, artificial intelligence, Hall says he has only dabbled in AI.

During the pandemic when much of Hall’s work was by phone or online, he developed and completed a website to present the full text — emended and annotated — of every noteworthy out-of-copyright history of Bedford. Two works that are cited more than any others are Abram English Brown’s “History of the Town of Bedford,” (1891) and Kathleen Kelly Broomer’s “Historic Properties and Neighborhoods” (2015), an invaluable resource for learning about homes and buildings in town. 

Two other works cited frequently are: “The Bedford Flag Unfurled” (2000) – the history of the Bedford Flag by Town Historian Sharon McDonald and  “The Bedford Sampler, a communal history of Bedford,” compiled and edited by the Friends of the Bedford Free Public Library. This one is basically a cookbook with some town history and it’s fun to browse to see what local cooks were preparing in the 1960s. You can find these books in the Bedford Room. 

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Contact The Bedford Citizen: [email protected] or 781-430-8837

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