Thursday, September 29, 2005

I learned the meaning of chronemics, and other things today

Marcel Danesis's Encyclopedic Dictionary of Semiotics, Media, and Communications (ISBN 0-8020-4783-1) defines chronemics as the "study of how cultures 1. divide time into regular periods, 2. arrange events in the order of their occurrence, 3. assign dates to events" (48). I had a student today come to the Information Desk asking for articles that presented empirical studies about chronemics. It was for a Communication Studies class. She barely knew what it was, but we both knew it had to deal with how cultures and groups perceive time. Based on that, we embarked together to locate some answers. The term itself was rare in the databases we used (Communication and Mass Media Complete, the Sage Communication Collection). However, doing searches on concepts like chronobiology (yes, that term, which would include the concept of the biological clock), time, social interactions, and cultures, we managed to find a couple of article dealing with how groups of people look at time or arrange time. For instance, we found an article on perceptions of time for workers, having to do with that old idea of time going faster when busy. We also found at least one article with time as perceived across generations (older versus younger people). These gave her a small start. As soon as I was done with that reference transaction, I rushed to look up a more official definition for myself, which is the one readers see at the opening of the post. It is one of those definitions I will not forget anytime soon.

What else did I learn today? I learned to a little about empirical studies on sexual orientation. Same student as above, different class. A good search in PsychInfo and PsychArticles helped with that since it allows for narrowing by empirical studies. Based on what she wanted, which was studies done with groups of people, samples and such, empirical studies seemed a better choice than the case study report option that usually covers accounts of how a particular patient was treated for a condition or evaluated. We were looking more for articles about determining or discovering orientation, at least that is what the patron requested.

I also met a new faculty member teaching organic chemistry. I will be providing library instruction for his two sections later in October.

Additionally, I learned that sometimes we can have wonderful technology, but that the personal touch can work better. I had another faculty member call me on the phone for some assistance with a database. I was trying to walk her through the process of using Academic Search Premier to locate articles on her topic. She is not technologically impaired, but she often needs a little guidance in narrowing topics, choosing keywords, and then accessing the articles whether full-text or not. My library is considering adding a Jybe toolbar to our library page (I may write about this later as things move along), but in this case, I don't think even the ability to co-browse would have helped. So, what did I do? I made sure she was in her office and told her I would be there as soon as my Information Desk shift ended, which was about ten minutes from the end of the call. The nice thing about a small campus where most of the rooms are in one building is that most everyone is only an elevator ride away. I went upstairs, sat down with her, had a pleasant time talking over her needs and giving her some ideas on searching. The small communication problem came with the use of TDNet, which we use for linking to full-text and identifying what we carry as full-text. Once I showed her what TDNet meant (in that case, that we did not have it full-text) and that she needed to do an ILL request, which can be done also online, she was more than happy. True, I could have showed her this with a tool like Jybe or other virtual reference tool, but I think the small effort of going to her office and showing her was well worth it. For me, it was also worth it on another level. When I got to her office, she told me, "remember the last time you helped me out? I went on to write a proposal for it, and it has been accepted for publication." It does not get better than that. Another day, another buck.

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