Notes from the Field #1

Part One: Reference Desk:

Now that I talked about my job search – I figured I would talk a bit about my job as a “Research and Instruction Librarian”

I spend a significant amount of time at the Reference Desk, either as a direct contact or a “backup”. As the direct contact I sit at the reference desk and wait for questions. While I wait I am normally working on other projects such as LibGuides (I will be posting about LibGuides later) or other projects and planning) but I always try to look as warm and as available as possible. Because our reference desk is part of our larger “information desk” I often stop confused looking students and ask them if I can help them with something. It is important to be as welcoming as possible because many users are hesitant to ask questions. One of my favorite things about this “Information Desk” is the fact that the Reference desk section is lower – more like a normal sized desk. The computer at this desk has two monitors – which are great for helping students see source comparisons, and it lets me keep the library chat box open and not hidden behind windows. When students come for reference questions I am able to have them sit down next to me – which I prefer over my past experiences at a high-up desk and turning the monitor. This allows for what I feel as a much better user experience. The students can sit next to me and take notes. I feel that I am getting more significant reference interviews with this set up. While we work on addressing their information needs I often open up an email and begin writing out the different steps we took. I also include different searches we construct together and links to vital articles. This way I get to reinforce the skills I taught the students and I also get to open a line of communication between the student and myself outside of this one interaction. Once the reference interview is over and I do my little wrap up, I send the email and ask the students if s/he has any follow up questions to either stop by or email me the questions. At my library we record every interaction with our patrons on an online database. Sending the email to the student also gives me a record I can duplicate onto the database. We use this to track what we do here at the library (to justify our existence) and to use for training. For the student workers (Research Assistants) we give them some of the real reference questions and ask them to answer the questions as part of their training every year. As a new librarian this feature has helped me grasp the type of research done by patrons of this library and has also informed me of some of the lesser known databases offered at the school. Every week each librarian brings his/her difficult reference questions to a meeting where we discuss best practices and suggest different measures to take in the future. This helps educate us all as well as provide effective team building exercises. As the new librarian I must say that I love this feature and I learn new things every single meeting.

I took Reference my 2nd semester of GSLIS and after that class I knew I wanted to be a Reference Librarian. I love working one on one with researchers as well as providing training on different resources available at the library. If you are thinking about Simmons GSLIS and sit in a class, I suggest sitting in on a reference class because you will learn so much about how we librarians remain vital to academic pursuits even in the age of Google.

Well that is all I have for now - I will follow up later in the week with some more notes from the field. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Any questions about Simmons GSLIS itself can be addressed to


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