Posted in Internship

Law Reference Internship, Week 3

My last intern shift last week was rather busy toward the end, and I did not have time to post reflections for the week, so I am posting this morning before my Week 4 shifts begin.

In general things were a little calmer at the desk in week three, but I did have a few experiences worth mentioning.  I had my first disappointed patron this week.  A public patron came in looking for information on a case from a small county and about which case the patron knew very little, short of the year that it occurred.  I did everything I or any of the reference librarians could think of to try and find the case, but we ended up having to recommend that the patron go to the clerk of court of the county where the case was likely tried.  This did not satisfy the patron at all.  Afterward, however, the reference librarians and I talked about the transaction and discussed how, despite one’s best efforts, we cannot always furnish the immediate answer, but we can try to point patrons in the right direction.

Another interesting experience I had occurred at the end of one of my later shifts.  The reference desk closes for a couple of hours from 5 to 7 in the evenings, and on two of those days, I work a shift that ends at 5, so I lock up, shut off lights, and leave with the other librarians.  Toward the end of one of these shifts last week, I had a patron come in for help finding and navigating one of our print resources.  This took quite a while (but we did figure it out, and the patron was quite satisfied and grateful for my help!), and when I got back to the reference office it was well past 5, so everyone had left.  Because my things were still at the desk, they had left the office open, and a (rather confused) law student was standing in the middle of the reference office wondering where the librarians had gone!  I informed him that we were closed, but he seemed rather disappointed, and I just couldn’t turn him away, so I shut the office doors so others would understand we were closed, and I started to help the student.  Unfortunately my message was evidently not received, as quickly thereafter two more students walked in for reference help, so I found myself in a sea of law students with no librarians to help me!  In the end, it turned out they were all working on the same assignment and stuck on the same question, so we all worked together, solved the problem quickly, and everyone left satisfied (at which point I quickly locked up and turned out the lights!).

Lesson learned this week: [When not helping a patron] Close up on time, or they’ll just keep coming!

Another lesson from this week: Helping patrons does not necessarily mean you’ll have their answers 100% of the time; sometimes helping a patron simply means pointing them in the direction of another agency or resource that can better address their questions.

Author:

I am the Assistant Director for Public Services at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. My research interests include exploring how emerging and existing technologies can be used to enhance library services and legal education as well as how to address knowledge gaps and meet the educational expectations of today's law students.

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