Thursday, March 31, 2005

Some time at the Information Desk

The first hour of my two hour stretch today is done. I have a couple of research questions, and a library tour that stopped by.

I had one question about communications and energy. After a little cajoling and negotiation, I found out that what he really wanted was information about early communications technology. For instance, today we have cell phones and blackberries. He wanted information on what businesses did before the cell phones and the blackberries and other modern conveniences. So, the search was refined to look more at communications history and history of technology. We managed to find a few items dealing with early (by this I mean mid to early 20th century)history of communications technology. It was a bit broader than what he had in mind, which was within the energy industry, but I think he will be ok. The idea is that the more general concept will apply to his specific idea.

Then I had another student asking about teachers' aides. She wanted to write a paper arguing about the need to make them more available in classrooms, to hire more of them. A good search on Academic Search Premier and ERIC (databases) yielded some pretty good results. And then. . .

Seems like I am always finding out another gap in the collection, or a hole to plug in. Time working at a Reference Desk is often a good time for librarians to discover what kind of needs in terms of collection development the library has. You learn these through the questions and requests patrons bring in, and specially when it turns out you don't have something you think we ought to have. I just had a student ask for books on Michael Jackson, and the only item I was able to find was his autobiography Moonwalker, which dates from 1988, not exactly the most timely thing. Now, I know Jackson is not necessarily a priority academic subject, but I think we should have a bit more. Doing a preliminary search of other local libraries, I noticed one of the public libraries has some of the other biographies, but these date to 1994 or so. Sounds to me like I have to do a little shopping to see what current things may be available. The rub about celebrity bios is just that, that they are celebrity bios with a high time sensitivity. Once the interest is gone, the book will likely linger on the shelf until it eventually gets weeded out. Public libraries are not as sensitive to this since often they lease multiple copies of high interest low permanence title (think bestsellers like Harry Potter. They would order 20 copies or so, keep 2 or 3 permanently, then return the rest if leased for instance). If they don't lease them, they often sell them at the Friends of the Library sale. I can't quite do that, so I have to be more selective. Having said that, given the current interest, I probably need to make sure we get some more current items, at least one. I personally found this gap embarassing because Music falls under Arts and Humanities, which is my subject area, and I have bought a couple of things here and there on pop music. How the self proclaimed King of Pop eluded me is beyond me. However, I will try not to be too hard on myself. I am still fairly new in the workplace and still learning what is in my areas of the collection. And there was no A&H specialist before I got here. But enough of the mitigating factors (read excuses if you will). I will have to do just fill the gap. I think I still have some money left on that budget.

Well, by the time I am done typing this, my second hour at the desk is almost done. I was typing between patron requests, which is always a bit of a challenge, but certainly not the first time I write on the run. So far, the day is looking good.

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