Tuesday, May 17, 2005

When professors just show up

The university has finished its Spring semester, and we are now in intersession until the Summer session starts after Memorial Day. As a result, things in the library are slow, which has given me a bit more time to catch up on some reading and writing as well as work on some projects. At our small library, since things are slow for now, we make the Reference Desk schedule more flexible by adding in some people from Circulation and other support staff. Usually what happens is if a patron needs some detailed reference help, they can call on one of the librarians. I think the idea is to free up the librarians a bit so they can do other projects. Personally, I think we should just let the librarians handle it, not because I don't think the other professionals are not capable, but because if they are going to call on me anyways, I might as well be there. However, I can see the other side.

Since things are slow, librarians are not the only ones with a little bit of time on their hands. The faculty also have time on their hands now that the semester is done, and they have finished grading essays and so on. Some of them leave for the summer, but others stay around whether to teach over the summer or work on their own research. So, a few of them eventually realize there is a library and that they probably should at least drop in. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit, but not by much. They usually have a few reasons such as they want to suggest a purchase (they need to speak to their liaison), they heard we do classes or sessions for students (aka BI sessions, I do those), or they simply want to know what we have available for them in their area (they need a brief tour and/or demo). Today, a Communications adjunct came in with a mass e-mail promoting the Sage Collections, and he wanted to know if we had such a thing. One of our Circulation supervisors was at the Reference Desk at the time, and she came into the Reference Office to see if one of the librarians would tell her yes or no. While I could have simply told her to tell him, yes, we have the database in question, I think that would have been too easy, not to mention "off putting." What I ended up telling her was that I would come over and meet the professor myself.

I was glad that I came out and met him. He was a very pleasant fellow for starters. I explained to him that we did not list Sage as a database, but that it was a product, and the particular database would be found under the appropriate subject area. I asked what was his area, and I learned it was Communications, which also happens to be one of my Collection Development areas. I then was able to tell him that we had Communications Studies: A Sage Full-Text Collection, which is one of the products Sage makes. He was happy to know we already had it; it was not going to cost extra, and he was even happier to know he could access it from his office as well as at home. I gave him a a quick demo of the interface so he could see how it worked and what kind of results were available. This drew further interest since Sage provides good full text coverage; it is a tool students can use as well to locate more current readings for their classes. We had a very pleasant conversation in the meantime where I was able to learn about his classes as well as needs and interests, and we showed him a little about what was available and even suggested he may want to bring his classes when he was teaching again. It was a nice moment, the type that I really like because it gets me out of my desk to actually meet people. It was also a learning moment for both of us, and it was yet another way to serve a patron.

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