This week I gained much more experience with international patrons, who can sometimes prove challenging if the language barrier is high. One of these students I actually worked with twice this week – the first time another reference librarian and I were suggesting resources to help with an extensive research project he was working on; he was slightly aggravated at one point during this interaction, as one of the resources we were recommending contained a legal term of art in the title, the meaning of which, in ordinary parlance, made the resource seem completely inappropriate to his needs. Nevertheless, we were able to explain what the term meant in this case, and he seemed satisfied with our assistance. Later this week, the patron returned, having interlibrary-loaned this resource and now needing assistance finding the laws referenced therein online. This was a much more comprehensible interaction for him, and I believe he was quite satisfied with the assistance.
Yesterday I helped another international student with some complicated legal citations, giving me a refresher course in Bluebook legal citation styles. Today I again encountered a not-directly-answerable reference question for an international student; after pouring through the Indiana Practice series, with my gut instinctively telling me what the answer to the question was, I consulted another librarian for confirmation. She too was uncertain whether there was a direct answer available, but her gut agreed with mine, and we found a citation in another resource that best answered the patron’s question.
As noted in previous posts, I continue to work on a research project for one of the librarians, and have been informed today that another project is lined up for me in the coming weeks. I was particularly excited to have these “special projects” experiences in this internship, to see what the behind-the-scenes work of the reference librarian entails, so I am thrilled to have so many opportunities to gain this experience.
Lesson learned this week: It’s easy to take for granted legal jargon; when working with a patron, international or not, it is important to ensure they understand what you mean – learning the vocabulary of the law is important for them, but first they need to understand the plain English meaning of the concepts.
Another week of new experiences at the reference desk!
This week I worked/will work two more evening reference shifts, running the reference office myself. While not ordinarily too busy, during last night’s shift I did have two patrons from the Legal Bibliography course (which I took last Spring) come in for help finding the correct source to answer one of their assignment questions. Luckily, I took thorough notes during that course, a strategy that helps me commit facts to memory better, and I was able to direct them to the best available source to answer the question.
I also had a phone-in reference question that required me to scour the Indiana Code to find an answer. It was a two-part question, and while I was able to find a direct answer to one part, the other had to be inferred by utilizing two separate code sections, an excellent lesson in understanding that not every question has a definitive answer! Despite the fact that there was only a direct statutory answer to one part of this question, the patron seemed satisfied and grateful for the assistance.
Finally, I continue work on a couple of ongoing projects with one of the reference staff. Initial feedback on the projects have been quite positive, which, for a long-term project like this, is very reaffirming!
Lesson learned this week: While this does not happen often, not all reference questions have answers, and others have indirect, inferred answers instead.
This week has been a little slower at the desk, but I have been by no means without work to do! On Tuesday I “flew solo” for the first time, working evening reference alone. It is my understanding that evening reference tends to be a little slower – indeed, I had only one patron. This was interesting exchange, as the patron was an undergraduate who was not quite sure what she needed. She was involved in a class research project, and was tasked with finding resources in a certain area of law, but was unsure how general or specific these sources were meant to be. I gave her some locations to begin with, but recommended that she ask her professor for more specifics. I will work another shift of evening reference next week.
I continued to work on the creation of a library guide with one of the reference librarians, but was also given another mini-project to work on by another reference librarian. In this case, a student had sent an email request for help addressing three questions about the legal culture in another country. We were both admittedly stumped as to how to answer this question, having exhausted all the resources we could think of to no avail. We are continuing to work on this project this week, and today I sought the help of reference librarians in other disciplines and at other schools – a couple of librarians at other IU libraries and the reference librarians at a law school in the country in question. I will be interested to see what resources they suggest.
Lesson this week: Showing enthusiasm for your work quickly leads to the bestowing of greater responsibilities.
It has been an interesting week at the reference desk. A retired Indiana judge came in with a puzzler of a request, and two of us worked with her for over an hour trying to find references to help her prepare for an upcoming presentation. Although I was slightly intimidated at first, she was a very gracious patron, and I think we satisfied her needs quite well.
Other patron requests this week were fairly ordinary, although I did spend a half-hour on the phone with a patron trying to fulfill another hard-to-find answer to an Indiana procedural question. The patron was quite patient with me (I really could not have gone any faster – it was simply a tough question to answer), and in the end I believe I satisfied the patron’s needs. This interaction also gave me good experience with phone reference which I find to be one of the more difficult forms of reference we are tasked with at the desk.
The most significant development this week was my assignment of a special project for one of the reference librarians. She is working on a research guide on state constitutional law (all fifty states), and I am helping her find resources on each state in five specific areas of constitutional law. One of my goals of the internship was to be able to assist with special reference projects, so I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity.
Finally, today I was asked whether I could cover an evening shift next week for one of the librarians who will be unavailable to do it himself, and I gladly accepted, so next week I will have my first turn “flying solo.” I will report on that experience in the next post.
Lesson learned this week: Especially when looking for the same thing across several jurisdictions, patience and perseverance are key virtues!