Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recent Discovery: Answering Research Questions is Not Impossible

Having a name plate is still the most exciting part about being behind the Reference Desk. (It's the little things in life that really make a difference.) But almost equally exciting is that I have now successfully answered several research questions! I am continuing to learn how to do things and, more importantly, I am (usually) remembering how to do them. The other librarians are still taking turns being my "Desk Buddy" so there is always someone to help me answer the questions, but I am starting to provide students and other patrons with helpful information on my own.

It is also helpful that we often get students asking similar questions right after each other because they happen to be working on the same assignment. For example, while I was at the desk yesterday two different students came to the desk looking for help finding information from small town newspapers about Civil War soldiers. After watching my Desk Buddy for the day, Carolyn, assist the first student I felt vastly more knowledgeable as I assisted the second student.

Another big moment at the desk yesterday was when Carolyn went downstairs to assist a student with something and I was left at the desk by myself for about five minutes. It was rather terrifying and very exciting at the same time. Of course, nothing happened. Maybe the students could sense my fear and somehow knew not to ask me questions until Carolyn came back. But sitting behind the desk without a Desk Buddy, even if it was just for five minutes, was a big step on the way to knowing what I'm doing and feeling comfortable with it. I think there is a psychology term for gradual exposure to situations, objects, or stimuli that make you anxious in an attempt to cure you of your fear. Whatever the term is, I think it can be to my situation.

Apparently science is everywhere, even behind the Reference Desk. For that matter, there are several humongous reference books behind the desk about science. If you need them, just ask.


  1. Audrey, I used to be terrified of my reference shifts in school, but I now look forward to them as one of the best parts of the day.

    Not to be a total ref. librarian, but maybe the psych. term you're thinking about is "shaping," which is a technique in operant conditioning.:)

    "shaping n." A Dictionary of Psychology. Edited by Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Gettysburg College. 9 February 2011

  2. I love that Clint included a citation for his comment!

  3. Science is everywhere! It's even in my coffee right now!
    In other news, maybe I'll stop by at some point to admire your name plate.