I’ve been sitting at the reference desk (thats right, that age-old place where a librarian is willing and ready to answer your questions) for a number of weeks now. Mind you, they are not very willing to give us more than an hour a week, and I try to milk it for all its worth, but it wasn’t until the past 2 weeks that I got my first real questions. This is a ground-breaking day for a new librarian. Questions move from, “can you check out this book for me?” and “where is that bathroom?” to “can you help me with my research?”
And I’d love to. My first question was rather easy, as I had already researched the topic myself in the past. I was careful to listen to the needs of the patron, giving him options of both digital and print sources (without overwhelming him) and following up with the essential “please let me know if I can do anything else to help.” Last week I had a second and much more challenging question that ended up requiring an in-depth search that I later emailed the results to the patron. Both were thrilling experiences and reminded me why I’m in this field. I love the hunt. And I love to help.
I’ve had a number of bad experiences with people sitting at the reference desk, claiming to be or under the guise of a professional librarian. Failure to interact with me (the patron), not finding out what I need, not listening to what I need, not asking what I’ve found thus far, not asking if they’ve done enough, and not inviting me back if there are more questions. This is a service industry, people! Step it up! And now that I’ve sat through reference class I’m even more critical.
Tonight’s chat with whoever was on the desk tonight at my own university was less than professional and ended in “Good luck. My shift is over.” Yuck. Sloppy and I’m still not feeling helped. Sigh.