posted February 22, 2013 3:47 PM by Emily Boyd
Last week my reference professor asked how many of us had ever worked in a restaurant. At least two thirds of the class raised their hand. The point he was making, quite successfully I might add, was that we already have skills from past work experiences that will help us succeed in this field. Excluding a few hours volunteering for my hometown high school library, I have no firsthand experience in this field. That said, my résumé boasts a long list of service based positions. I have worked as a ranger for the National Park Service, as a customer service representative over the phone, as a server in a local restaurant, and currently as a hostess, and I've realized it’s all the same. Whether you describe your clientele as patrons, guests, customers, clients, or visitors, it really is all the same.
Being kind and helpful is just as important as understanding the needs of a patron regardless of context. My reference class has devoted a lot of time to practicing the proper way to conduct a reference interview with a patron searching for information. At first glance, the process of answering a question from a library patron appears incredibly simple, but of course nothing is ever quite what meets the eye. A librarian who is experienced in conducting a successful reference interview will do so in such a way that the patron does not realize the skill involved. Communication is key when determining the needs of a patron and practice is the only way to improve this skill.
I have found the ability to understand and interpret the needs of a customer is much the same no matter the circumstances. Often the question asked is not really what the patron needs, and learning to find the true meaning behind a poorly articulated question is certainly a skill that requires practice. I consider myself lucky to have so many past work experiences that will lend themselves well to the library profession. People skills are a must in this profession and it is important to work on improving at every possible opportunity.