Information Sources and Services course discussion
At the end of Susan J. Beck’s role as president of RUSA (Reference and User Services Association), she wrote this article to reflect on why she became a reference librarian. Beck begins by stating that she is “over fifty and have been a reference librarian since 1980 – you do the math.” With this length of experience, she states, with a humorous angle that the main questions asked by a reference librarian are “Where is the pencil sharpener? Where is the photocopier, and how much do the copies cost? Where are the restrooms?” Beck’s list of questions are just a beginning to the root of her being a reference librarian; “a polite, friendly, and quick response” is what is essential for any questions a reference librarian receives. This helps build a relationship between patron and reference librarian (305).
Beck says that she “became a librarian because I loved solitary studying in libraries while a college student. The library, as a place, was very comforting to me” (305). Beck explains how the library was easily accessible and full of options for reading. She states that this is why “I am so fascinated by searching the Web.” She mentions that during her time as a student she rarely used the reference librarian as a source of assistance when writing the papers for her history, political science, and education courses. When she became a grad student, however, she used the reference librarians more often and found them “always friendly and helpful. I do not ever remember leaving the reference desk without knowing where I was going next. I was a happy and satisfied user.” After that, Beck decided to go to library school because it “just made so much sense.” She loved the libraries all the time she was a student and she loved just being in the library (306).
Once Beck was a library student, she felt intimidated by the reference librarians. She felt that as a library student, the reference librarians would think she should already know the answers to her questions. She felt as if she should learn the answers on her own and that the librarians would be testy about answering her questions. “Why is there always that tension between library school student and reference librarians?” Beck was asked this question at a presentation and her answer was, “Please do ask the librarians as much questions as you can and on every occasion that you need to!” Beck believes that this exchange between the professional librarian and the student must be used as a teaching tool. Beck even mentions how her “greatest influences have been my colleagues” (306).
Beck is also influenced by library literature and she even encourages librarians to keep articles that they find extremely useful. Her lists for important articles include Benson and Maloney’s “Principles of Searching”, Carol Tenopir’s “Online Database” columns in Library Journal, as well as Dewney and Michell’s “Oranges and Peaches: Understanding Communication Accidents in the Reference Interview.” Beck states that the Benson and Maloney article includes steps for conducting the reference interview, “Clarify the question (the interview), Establish search parameters…, Identify sources to be searched, Translate the question into the language of each source, Conduct the search, and Deliver the information.” Beck mentions how this is a simple and effective way of conducting the reference interview and it has been a basic formula to use. Beck also asserts that, “Did I completely answer your question?” should be inserted at the end of the reference interview. If the answer is “no” then the librarian should start over until they give a satisfactory answer (307).
Beck’s article is important for someone planning to become a reference librarian because Beck has been a reference librarian for a number of years. She really enjoys her job and has great insight and good tips for students and professionals. I’m glad to see that she mentioned that “Oranges and Peaches” article as I was asked to read that during my studies as well. This article gave me a bit more of a clear knowledge of what the reference librarian’s main job skills is. I like that she included that we are to answer questions with a friendly and eager manner in order to insure a closer relationship between patron and librarian. I vaguely remember using the reference librarian as an English major in my undergrad years and I was always fascinated by how the librarian had the keys to all that knowledge.
Beck, like Mark Anderson-Wilk who wrote my article #2 choice, also encourages the use Google Scholar which I was only introduced to as a community college teacher earlier this year. I like that the reference librarian’s job is to keep up with new ways of doing searches, but also needs a cataloging skill (something Beck is sad to see go in the recent reference librarian training.) I am also encouraged by Beck’s affirmation that we should make a point to go to workshops at least once a year. She mentions that even though the library may not be able to pay for it, you should save up and go at least once a year. This will help you network with other librarians and learn the most modern techniques for finding information.
I like Beck’s personal touch to the article. It made it much easier to read and was less clinical as other articles such as the Anderson-Wilk article I’ll use for next time. There was less jargon and if it was used, it was explained. You can tell that Beck is very enthusiastic about her career and she encouraged new reference librarians to pursue their new career with vigor and education. Her tips on using your available sources such as colleges, other librarians, library literature and workshops are important for new librarians to take note of. Also her listing the steps to the reference interview is something we should all keep on hand, including the articles she mentioned. I really liked this article and it made me more interested in a career in reference librarianship. I love that Beck concludes her article with her email address and a request for anyone who reads her article to contact her. Again, it’s a nice, personal touch.
Beck, Susan J. "Reflections of a Reference Librarian." Reference & User Services Quarterly 49.4
(2010): 305-309. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 26 Sept. 2010.