More specifically, I’m thinking about how I answer reference questions. The analogy I’ve always used is about teaching someone how to catch fish versus giving them a fish right now. It’s rare that I just answer questions at the reference desk, especially when the asker is a student. Instead, I escort the student over to one of our public computers and walk them through the process of figuring it out for themselves. I make them work for it because I believe that working for it means they’ll eventually be able to answer questions for themselves.
My thinking on this is definitely evolving, so I’d love to get your input. For the librarians (degreed or otherwise) in my reading audience, how do you handle it? Further: does your library have an official stance on how to handle reference desk interactions? For the library science students, what have your professors had to say on the subject?
These are some interesting questions/thoughts. At our reference desk, the questions usually take the form of ‘how do I…’ or ‘where can I find…’, which lend themselves fairly readily to the teach-them-to-fish approach, though of course there are certain patrons who just want us to provide information (e.g. a call number) that they could get themselves but they don’t want to.
Our email questions are much more likely to demand an answer, but I think most of us do provide information about how we located the resources we provide in our response. Some of my favorite questions have been ones where the patron asks ‘how do I research this?’—those are fun to answer. :)
It’s an excellent question. In the end I think it depends on the situation, which makes it hard to require of all librarians.
I’ve periodically wished I could read Russian due to certain materials in our collection, but the occasions are infrequent enough that actually learning Russian doesn’t seem like it would be worth the time I’d have to divert from other work-related things. (And what are the chances that Russian would be useful in my next position? Fairly small, I should think, though it’s certainly something that could be included on one’s resume.)
On the other hand, for someone on a public service desk in a linguistically diverse area, learning one of the non-English languages would be valuable.
Google has not killed the library and ebooks won’t do it either. The biggest threat to the public library in American culture is limited hours. In the new budget reality if libraries are forced to dramatically decrease their hours then they will be drastically reduced in their ability to serve their public.[…]
The public library in America will only be irrelevant when it is inaccessible.
Many people – me included – have pointed out the disaster of customer service at every level – business and government – many times. It probably serves no purpose, other than the fact that venting makes you feel better. What is needed is a solution, and I think I have found one.
Everyone should hire librarians.
Every time you hear about budget cuts and cutbacks on hours, it seems like our libraries, and librarians, are the ones suffering. But these places, and these people, must be the most helpful, the most informed, and the most knowledgeable resources on the planet. If they hired librarians to be clerks at the DMV, everyone would get their license plates on time and walk out of the office looking forward to renewal time. If librarians ran health care, people might still get sick, but not tired.
Customer Service: The art of making your customers love you [infographic]
My thought: To what extent does this extend to libraries?
Librarianship is an awareness — a hypervigilance to any needs of a community. Everything we see or come in contact with is collected and disseminated to those who seek that information. On another level, though, we also retain that idea, and can share it with someone else. In that way, librarians are libraries, indexes, databases; polymaths. “Jack of all trades; master of none” no longer applies–librarians are constantly educating themselves and mastering the next big thing. Good librarians are interdisciplinary, as challenging as it is to sustain.
To sum up my original point, I’m trying to get the message across that piracy is a service problem. If media companies start embracing easy to use digital methods of distribution, it’s the best way to combat piracy. You might not be able to ever beat “free,” but you sure as hell can compete with “easy.”
…The idiotic rule of thumb in the industry is that one download equals one lost sale, and as such they are able to compute HUGE losses for themselves with download statistics. Using this sort of logic, the entertainment industry has claimed that despite record profits and returns, piracy is taking a giant chunk out of their bottom line.
I am primarily a reference librarian with additional tasks pertaining to Twitter and our digital services. This is roughly how my Monday went.
And that’s it for me today.
Music for the day:
At SUNYLA this year, someone asked me about collection measures, and I think that’s when I said “I don’t care” and made several people very happy. Even if that’s not when I said it, I still don’t care.
I said it again today, when a friend innocently asked a bunch of us what our staff FTE and collection size are. I answered the FTE question (22), but … I still don’t care about the size of our collection. Here’s why.
Collection sizes are measuring sticks that tell you something about the relative wealth of an institution over time. They also used to be the way to assess the value an institution put on information resources, a way to assess the volume of information available to its community, and a way to justifiably say “my library is among the top 10 libraries for research into the origins of space monkeys”.
But here are my objections:
- Collection counts are print-era measures, and I don’t run a print-era library.
- Collection counts are input measures, and I’m more interested in output successes.
- Collection counts are an irresponsible way to evaluate the health of a collection.
The blog post that linked to this put it well:
As a former IT person and a current librarian, I’ve got to say that this article,Want Good IT Customer Service? Visit Your Library, has a lot of truth in it — I definitely see the differences between my former profession and my current one. And as the article points out, many of those differences are on the plus side for librarians. Not all, of course, but that’s a different post.
This former IT person and current librarian agrees. :)
It would behoove libraries to adopt a similar focus. A very simple formula is at work in determining satisfaction for most library users. If a patron comes to the library or logs in and finds what she wants, or a close approximation to it, she is happy. To the extent that she does not, she isn’t. Period. Impressive buildings, glitzy web pages, fat acquisitions budgets, high volume counts (whether electronic, print, or both) are fine, but they are not the most important thing—which is simply whether or not the patron is able to locate the answer, fact, statistic, idea, or data set she needs—and the quicker and easier, the better.
I never would have considered IT professionals and librarians kindred spirits if I hadn’t interviewed Steven Zink, Ph.D., then the VP of Information Technology and dean of University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno. Zink told me the university’s IT help desk is combined with the reference desk in the main university library so librarians and IT staffers work side-by-side. Sure, both IT pros and librarians place a high value on knowledge. But beyond that, I couldn’t see how the roles complemented each other. I assumed the shared quarters were due to space and/or budget limitations.
But that wasn’t it at all.
» via ITBusinessEdge
I worked in IT support in college and have often thought about the similarities between that and library reference work (I even discussed the parallels in one of the answers on my comprehensive exam). This article is a nice confirmation of that thought. :)