or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

How Trustworthy Am I?

   November 16th, 2006 Brian Herzog

From Where I SitAs a reference librarian, I help people will all kinds of questions. I have an MLIS degree, which essentially is a degree in how to location and evaluate information - not in the information itself. Meaning, I'm not an expert on every subject. I don't know the answer to every question; I just know how to find it.

So it surprises me the level of trust patrons give to me, just based on my sitting behind a public library reference desk. Although my profession's ethics forbid it, it seems people would be willing to believe pretty much any advice I would care to give them on medical, legal or tax questions.

However, I find that this level of trust does not extend to the location of our photocopier. The picture above is the view from behind our reference desk (click it for a bigger view). The photocopier, although it cannot be seen from the desk, is located around the corner to the left of the stairs, next to the print station, under the clock.

Quite often, someone comes down the steps and asks if we have a copier. It almost never fails that, when I tell them, "yes, we do; you can't see it from here, but it's around the corner to the left of the steps," they will turn and then stand, staring off into that general direction. Not moving, as if they distrust me to such a degree that even though it would take only two steps for them to see the copier, they are unwilling to risk it.

ethics, library, patrons, reference desk, trust

Tags: , , , ,