When asking a reference librarian for help, phrasing is everything.
“How do you make the sound happen on the computer?” he asked.
On my own time I’m a jerk, and it took a real effort to push the impulse to snark back down into the floor. On the ref desk, you have to take everything seriously. So I did, and I went through my normal checklist of possible problems a PC might have in the classroom.
“Is the mute box unchecked?” (Yes.)
“Is the volume slide turned all the way up?” (Yes.)
“Are the speakers connected?” (Yes.)
Normally, I’d have volunteered to get up and head to the classroom in question and physically examine the equipment, but due to minimal staffing levels today, that wasn’t an immediate option. So I apologized and offered to send the IT HelpDesk a ticker (which I did.)
Then he stared. For about fifteen seconds. Not saying a word, no expression on his face, just staring at me as if I was the cause of his morning’s problems. Oblivious to the fact that the classroom equipment is routinely used and often abused by people in the teaching profession who cannot be bothered to learn its correct use, care, and maintenance. People who call themselves professors, who sometimes aren’t fit to teach water how to run downhill. People who expect me to fix problems that occur outside the library.
For instance, had the gentleman asked me “There’s no sound out of the PC in the classroom. Do you think you could take a quick look?” I’d have done it, despite the staffing weirdness. I do that for others, I’d have done it for him, too. Had he just asked me. Had he not stared.
Sometimes it really is that simple.