Just recently, someone who follows my blog sent me this email:
I have just started a job as a library reference assistant in a public library system in a city of over 500,000 people. I will be in one of the busier neighborhood libraries (there are around a dozen neighborhood libraries and a central library).
Any tips/advice for a new library reference assistant with only patron experience (and that, only checking out books, no reference usage) in a library?
Anyway, I thought I'd put together a Top 5 list for advice for new library employees. It's tricky, as library jobs can be so different, but here's the advice (mostly reference-related) I came up with - please submit more advice in the comments:
Don't be afraid to tell the patron you're new, and might not know something
Don't be afraid to ask coworkers for help (this will also save the patron's time)
When working on a difficult or complex question with a patron, I will get the patron started in one area (say, browsing the right Dewey section) while I go back and continue searching on my own. I find it much easier to think when a patron isn't standing there staring at me, and I think they get more out of it by being involved in the search
During downtime, learn your library's policies and about what resources & tools available to you - the catalog, vertical files, information at the reference desk, etc. (this is especially true for local information, which always seems like the hardest thing to find)
This has been a busy week at the reference desk (lots of people looking for school summer reading books). I didn't have any great ideas for today's post, so I thought I'd go meta - a blog post about blogging.
Here are a whole bunch of links I've been collecting that offer tips on blogging, or blogging better, or running a blog in general. Some of them are for personal blogs, but they apply pretty well to writing for a library website.
I suppose I should read them instead of just sharing them, but it's a start:
I use a couple of them all the time (especially site:), but I definitely spotted a few that will be extremely helpful:
+[stop word] - having the plus sign before a "stop word" (such as +not) forces the search to include that word, instead of ignoring it
inurl: and intitle: - similar to site:, but this limits the search to words just in the web address or title field. Very useful for increasing relevancy on obscure information
related: - lists websites that are "related" to the domain you search for (ie, related:swissarmylibrarian.net). This seems just oddly interesting, but there has got to be a very good application
The page also gives some great examples of how these can be combined. It's always good to learn how to search smarter, and it's certainly a conversation starter when patrons see me typing in these weird codes and getting better results than they do - always on the lookout for those teaching moments.
Thanks Chris, and to the faculty of the Valencia Community College for compiling the list. There arealsootherlists, too, but this one was very helpful.
As I'm sure you've heard, gas prices are on the rise. Stations around here are still hovering in the $3.90 range, but $4.00/gallon can't be far away. I am sure that's what prompted this week's exchange:
Patron: Can you tell me about, gas prices... and, um... fuel economy... ? Me: Well, maybe. What kind of information are you looking for? Patron: C'mon, you know, gas prices, and tips, and stuff. Is it real?
After a bit more of this, I learned that the patron:
received an email forward from a friend with driving tips that claim to save gas, and also a list of gas stations that sell gas made from oil from Middle Eastern countries,
wanted to know if there were real driving tips that could save gas, and,
wanted to see national gas prices and find the cheapest gas in town.
I've seen the gas imports email before, and lately have been seeing and hearing gas saving tips everywhere. We started searching the internet for information about driving tips, and found lots. Here's my attempt at organizing those that look reliable:
Of course, the best tips are to drive less (by walking, biking or riding public transportation), or buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. None of those were practical options for the patron, so he was pretty happy to get this list when I emailed it to him later that day.