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.