There is something to be said about helping people with their reference research. You just never know what people will ask you. Sure, there will always be the question about where is the toilet or the exit. Some questions require clarification; for instance, a patron asked, “do you have books on Cisco?”. I came back with a question of my own, did you mean Sisqo the American music artist or Cisco networking? The patron stated he was after the latter. I just had to be sure, as we have books and magazines on both.
A toughie, but a pleasure to see, is when a patron looms up to you and points on a blank area of a printed map, asking is there more information on this area — um, provincial maps are tricky. Many of the towns, cities, and zones have been renamed over the years and it will take some time to track them down. I had no choice but to take it as a deferred enquiry, as it will require some degree of research to find out more about that blank area of the map.
It is a pleasure when your curiosity has been answered or led to another clue. I don’t know if patrons see it that way, or find it satisfying as I do, since it is yet another clue and not an actual answer.
Recently, I was asked, can you ever not help people? Would you be happy to not be rostered to do a desk shift? My answer is no. Referring people to resources comes naturally to me. It can’t be helped. There is something about being helpful that’s so rewarding. Also, working on the service desk offers priceless insight into how people go about their research. No amount of surveying can capture human nuances. This sort of insight is useful for refining library guides and marketing the collection.
What I have learnt over the years is to not interrupt people’s thought process. Information overload is bad. It takes skill to read body cues and facial expressions. It is a skill I am happy to perform everyday with relish.