At first, I told him I wasn’t going to take the money, but he insisted and said it was only fair. My response was worth it, he said, and he was prepared to pay money to have someone via Google Answers respond anyway. Besides, he added, I probably gave him information about questions he hadn’t thought to ask yet. He admitted that he still hadn’t taken the opportunity to really look at what I sent him, at which point I really tried to give the money back, but he really wanted me to have it. So I took the money. It was very kind of him to offer to pay. When else in my life as a professional librarian am I essentially going to get a tip like that?
Addendum 2/27: For those of you like gabriel, who commented below, who haven’t been following the thread, I had a lengthy discussion about the Google Answers service versus librarians with some bloggers earlier this month. One of them, Mike, challenged me to respond to something he had posted on Google Answers that was getting dusty. I accepted his challenge. The link in the post title above (most of the post titles on this blog are linked to material relevant to the post) goes to a post with my answer that links to his questions and some other posts in the series. I didn’t go into great detail about the situation here because I figured people who wanted to know more could follow the above link.
Actually, there are unofficial rules about privacy and confidentiality regarding library inquiries that many librarians take seriously, which is one reason why I usually don’t blog about all of the interesting questions I get in my job. And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t identify the inquirer unless I had prior permission. Since Mike challenged me publicly on his blog, I decided that it was okay for me to write publicly about the inquiry and my response (though I did get his clearance to post the answer (linked above)). Had he contacted me offblog or in another private manner, I might have handled it all differently.
Privacy/confidentiality in library transactions might seem strange, but think about how many people may need to ask questions of a personal nature, whether it’s seeking information about finances, a medical condition, or homework help. If the local librarians had a reputation for gossiping about what people asked about at the reference desk, would people needing assistance with something personal be less likely to seek assistance when they think their question could be spread around town?