Reference Librarianship : Notes from the Trenches book cover
1st Edition

Reference Librarianship
Notes from the Trenches

ISBN 9780789029485
Published July 31, 2006 by Routledge
268 Pages

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Book Description

A daily diary of actual interactions between a reference desk librarian and his patrons

Reference Librarianship documents a year in the life of a young librarian working in the “trenches” at a library in the Midwestern United States. This one-of-a-kind book provides a daily diary of every librarian/patron transaction—no matter how mundane or absurd—to demonstrate not only how advances in technology have affected the reference librarian’s job, but how the public’s expectations have changed, as well. The book also includes observations by a now-retired reference librarian on the current state of the field based on these unedited interactions.

Over the past two decades, the job of reference librarian has seen many changes. But in many ways, reference desk work hasn’t changed a bit, with its mix of odd, humorous, routine, and ridiculous requests that capture what it’s like to deal with patrons day after day. Reference Librarianship paints a clear picture of the field for library school students, provides emotional and philosophical support to practitioners, and reminds library administrators of what life was like on the “front lines.”

A sampling of the daily transactions documented in Reference Librarianship:

Monday, May 19, 2003:

  • pencil
  • pencil
  • network down
  • I tell people that I can’t sign them up for an Internet terminal because the network is down and they just stand there, staring into space
  • One of them asks for three days worth of newspapers
  • microfiche machine explanation
  • Sorry, Sir, the network is still down (multiply by twenty and insert randomly into the remainder of the day)
  • magic tricks, but he pretty much knew where they were
  • One of our large interior plate glass windows shattered. No one was hurt and it made a fascinating noise, like a crystal waterfall landing on soil.
  • “Books on prostitution, you know—whores?”
  • Someone from the County called to ask if any criminal activity had occurred on a particular street. Someone else referred her to us. She was dubious—with good reason.
  • “Math puzzles.” Okay. I show him the books.
  • “Just math.” Certainly. I show him the books.
  • “I need them in Spanish.” Grrr ...
Reference Librarianship is an enlightening, educational, and entertaining look at the real world of reference desk work. It’s an essential read for reference librarians (both public and academic), library administrators, and library school students, as well as anyone who works with the public.

    Table of Contents

    Preface.  Chapter 1. Directional Questions.  "Just Point Me to the…" A Grunt’s Diary: May-June 2003  Chapter 2. The Library Has Everything.  “Alice’s Restaurant” or “Do You Have…" A Grunt’s Diary: July 2003  Chapter 3. Something Is Not Working Here
    “The Computer/Printer/Copier Is Broken."  A Grunt’s Diary: August 2003  Chapter 4. The Computer Is Not Listening to Me!  Computer Literacy versus Printed Literacy. A Grunt’s Diary: September 2003 Chapter 5. The Library Does Not Have What I Want Reprise and Coda.  A Grunt’s Diary: October 2003  Chapter 6. Why Are These People in the Library? The Library: People’s University or Social Service Center.  A Grunt’s Diary: November 2003  Chapter 7. Reference Questions “I Need Help!” A Grunt’s Diary: December 2003  Chapter 8. Policy Questions “Why Does (Doesn’t) the Library…”  A Grunt’s Diary: January 2004  Chapter 9. The Library As a Retail Outlet How One Library Transformed Itself into an Xpress Shop.  A Grunt’s Diary: February 2004  Chapter 10. Staffing Tomorrow’s Library Hire for the Smile, Train for the Job. A Grunt’s Diary: March 2004 Chapter 11. Building Tomorrow’s Library “Why Did I Tell You I Was Going to Shanghai?”  A Grunt’s Diary: April 2004  Chapter 12. How Did We Get Here from There? Where Did We Go Wrong/Right?  A Grunt’s Diary: May 2004
    Conclusion.  References.   Index

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    Sprenkle, Peter; Anderson, Charles R