Monday, March 29, 2010

What does it take?

Ever since my first library job took me behind the desk where the librarians worked and I began to join them in their mysterious process, I have had a increasingly distorted view of information seeking. From that point on, finding library materials and information is very different from what I remember as a patron. It's not that I can see over the counter any better, although I'm taller than I used to be. It's more that I understand some of the secrets librarians learn in library school and while on the desk, helping patrons and each other.

And there are many! It just depends upon who you talk to; if you find a colleague entrenched in 'library-speak,' you can really gain some valuable tips. Like, calling audio books "nonmusical recordings" so that you remember to use this search term on the catalog. And that's sure to impress patrons.

Or is it?

In my ideal library, patrons can look up audio books through a variety of terms; audio books, recorded books, talking books, books on tape, downloadable books, ebooks, and yes, nonmusical recordings will all bring the same results. Exactly.

We use our expertise to help, and that's impressive enough. When we click with a patron, it's amazing. And when we work together to find, learn, discover, and locate the treasure of information, that's the relationship building aspect of library work that lasts forever. It can happen with children, students, peers, adults, home-bound, seniors and teens. It's a social interaction that provides substance to the questions asked. It's the tension of the moment of internalizing, growing those synapsis, and always respectful of the customer's turf in which we are invited (or sometimes subtly need to invade) to participate in the world of our patrons.

Instead of correcting and instructing, maybe we can someday make our catalogs and resources reflect each side of the desk, like a double rainbow.

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