Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reference Interview

Reference interview is not just an interview to figure out the problem and/or find out the question. Quite often it is also about dealing with people’s emotions. When something doesn’t work, patrons feel helpless, frustrated and angry. They need to print their resume right now as they are off to an interview and our computers don’t cooperate. It is here that an efficient librarian steps in - not only to help with the issue at hand, but also to diffuse anger. Sometimes unfortunately it is a one way communication - I am trying to communicate and patron isn't listening.

On many occasions patrons just tell me it (computer) isn’t working and from their voice and body language it is very possible they are about to explode with anger. When I ask more questions (reference interview) they are really infuriated - don’t I think they know what they are doing? I find ways to explain to them (politely) that I need to know what the problem is. They point aggressively to the screen while talking.

With all this background yelling, and bits & pieces of information they spurt out, I figure out the problem. Next step is to actually solve the problem. It could be a flicker of a switch, checking cable connections, rebooting, a phone call to our IT department, accessing patrons’ information from my computer to print a copy for them or in worst case scenario sending them to the nearest internet café so they can print their information there. The solution of course, depends on the problem. I must add patrons are not always happy with solutions such as running to the internet café. Understandably, the internet is free at the library. If it is a book or article they need and can’t find, then the approach is different.

It doesn’t matter how many computers, databases and books are available at a library. Without librarians to take the brunt and hunt for the right information quickly and efficiently, there will be chaos.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Librarian, information specialist, computer fixer-upper, social worker, baby-sitters, psychologist, security guard, what else??

At no time in library school did I take classes on human psychology, psychiatry or being social worker. Some days I perhaps should have considered taking some of these classes outside of LIS department.

We had police come in and look for someone we didn’t know. It turns out this person called police from the library's bathroom and threatened to kill herself. They found her of course all in one piece and still breathing. But what a night! Never a dull day at a public library! that is for sure.

Reference Librarian - Me, I am!

Not too long ago I took Facebooks' What kind of Librarian are you? challenge and was labelled "reference librarian." Though I was first surprised by a machine's ability to tell me exactly what I am, when I thought about it, it wasn't that much of a surprise.

I am curious about things, can be a bit too focussed on projects/questions I get, sceptical, lifelong learner, resilient, love change, have technical aptitude and always interested in learning and trying new technology. If you haven't tried this on Facebook go for it.

Glad to know I am what I am...

Project Management 101 for librarians

Librarians are constantly working on projects. The nature of the project, depth, limitations, outcome all vary depending on the project itself and where you work. Nevertheless, project management skills are very important. But don’t despair, you already have those skills and you just don’t know it yet.

Take me for example: In a public library setting and as a fairly new librarian (3 years), my projects are simpler than what a librarian for a huge system might have to accomplish. But I still work with people system-wide: define the project, find people to assist or work with me on the project, collect data, evaluate findings and then take it to my supervisor. I am really simplifying it here of course.

Project management involves change, people management skills, multitasking, knowledge of the project and/or where to go for help, dealing with limitations such as time, money, etc. It involves initiation, planning, implementation, reporting, concluding the project by accomplishing all (or most) of the goals set during initiation and planning, then going back to planning and implementation when something fails. Yup, it is a cycle.

This is a very important skill for all librarians regardless of which type of library we work in. It also goes hand-in-hand with time management and people skills. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Down Days

We were switching to a new ISP provider and had no internet for almost two full days at the front desk. What was amazing was that we still had lots of questions and were able to find answers for those questions. This tells me, libraries are still needed and will continue to flourish with our without computers. And we got a chance to brush up on Dewey.