Sunday, November 11, 2012

Always Be There and Always Impart Some Knowledge

Library visitors can sometimes be intimidated or overwhelmed by the amount of material in the library.  They might not know how to find something, or if information on something exists.  Some people are too macho or too scared to approach a reference librarian for help.

We need to first be observant.  Look around and see if people look a little lost or confused.  Don't sit behind the desk.  Walk around the aisles and see that all the visitors' needs are met.  It is sometimes easier for someone to open a dialog if you start it first.  If you, the reference librarian, approach the visitor, and ask if he is finding everything he needs, he will sometimes feel more comfortable asking his question, rather than approaching "the desk."

You can then lead him to a catalog and "think out loud".  During this thinking process, you will actually be showing him the search process so he will know what to do for the next time.  Then show him the way to the materials he needed.  If he didn't pick up the research process, he may at least realize that you are not that intimidating and that he should have no problems approaching you in the future.

Where I work, I like to share with the students "Life Lessons."  This is wisdom and knowledge of the world that I have that I believe they should know too.  Many students leave their wallets sitting out on the table while they work, sleep, or step away to the computer or washroom.  I let them know how important it is to keep it on them at all times.  Then I tell them how I saw a guy get his wallet stolen while he was paying a bill, and I tell them how they should hold their wallet while they are paying.  Then to make sure they put their wallet away immediately.  I have yet to see a repeat offender.

Don't be afraid to let other people know what you know.  It may come in handy one day


  1. Hi,
    I loved your comment about "getting out from behind the desk" when you are assisting patrons. Some of the best interactions I saw between library staff and teens especially was when they were floating around, shelving books, and the like. I think especially in your school setting with students who know you its so easy to feel comfortable to impart these life lessons, but for a public library just being a friendly face and letting patrons know you're available to help will open up doors to those relationships you seem to have with your students.
    Nice post!

  2. This is a great post about "getting out from behind the desk." Hopefully more and more libraries will and are embracing this customer service model for reference. Additionally, with the added benefit of tablets and IPads, the need to stay near the computer to answer reference questions has been solved. The library I work for has purchased some tablets for this specific purpose, we carry them with us as we roam the library so we can better help our patrons.
    Great post.