This week has remained consistently active at the reference desk as well.
Monday in particular I worked with a law student on finding non-law purposes for a paper the student was working on, and also pointed out to the student that some non-law sources, such as newspaper articles, can be found on our legal databases to which they are more accustomed. For the first time, a professor phoned in needing help navigating the search capabilities of a database; I was particularly pleased with the success of this transaction, because I had not yet worked with a professor and wondered how such an interaction might play out. I had a couple of students come with “directional” questions, needing help with issues such as computer problems for which I directed them to the computer technician in the library. Just as Monday came to a close, another phone interview consisted of a public patron desiring interpretation of the Indiana statutory code. This was tricky for me, because I have to be so careful not to cross the line into legal interpretation, which would constitute the unauthorized practice of law. Another librarian in the reference office guided me through how best to handle it, and, while the patron may not have gotten exactly what s/he was looking for, I directed the patron to the best code citation to answer the question, giving as much information as I ethically could.
The rest of the week was far less busy; Tuesday evening I worked the lone reference shift and aided an undergraduate in the beginnings of basic legal research; this patron returned with more questions while I was on the desk Wednesday afternoon, and I provided some further assistance.
Lesson learned this week: This week I learned that in a situation that could involve unauthorized practice of law, we generally direct the patron to the best legal resource and citation for answering the question. Even reading the cited text to the patron (ex: in a phone interview) can pose problems, because the librarian may err in the reading or the patron may mishear what is being read. While it may not always seem satisfactory to the patron, the best solution is to give the best citation possible, and leave the patron to look it up.
Week 10 of the semester was spring break, so I had a brief respite from my internship. It’s probably a good thing too, because this week has been surprisingly busy at the reference desk!
On Tuesday in particular I was flooded with patrons. A patron from another school on campus had questions about Indiana educational law and policy, so I took her to the print Indiana reference collection and explained how the Indiana Code and the Indiana Administrative Code are organized, and also directed her to other Indiana references that provide a little more explanation and discussion of topics. Later that day I worked with a patron from a student organization who was trying to locate helpful documents for a client of that organization; for this interaction I employed the help of the government documents librarian, but we determined that no one document existed to answer the patron’s question, but rather required several resources. Several quick interactions that day came from students from a class with a research assignment due; these students simply needed instruction on the use of the two major legal databases, Lexis and Westlaw. Finally, a patron came in seeking legal assistance of a personal nature and I directed her to a community legal clinic run by the law school. And that was all in a short, 3-hour window!
The rest of the week quieted down a bit. I continued to have questions from students in the class with the coming-due research assignment. Since they all had the same research question, it became easier to answer as the interactions went on! Most of these questions really came down to database instruction, and I was happy to gain some experience in this area.
Lesson learned this week: In an academic library setting, it can be beneficial for reference librarians to stay up-to-date on upcoming research assignments for which reference assistance may be sought. Especially when the assignment is the same for every student, it is highly likely that the librarians will see the same questions day in and day out; while the questions this week were simple to answer right off hand, preparation and anticipation are great benefits.
Without noticing, half my internship has flown by! With spring break on the horizon, reference desk activity has continued to be light; still, the patron requests that have come in I have handled quite professionally with little need for outside assistance.
The ongoing research project I have been assisting with for most of the semester is progressing quite nicely. The librarian with whom I have been working on this will be presenting the fruits of our labor for a group of professionals in April, so we are working furiously to finish the project by then.
I had an interesting phone interaction this week with a librarian at an out-of-state law firm requiring Indiana administrative law assistance; although the Indiana Register is now online, it is not so in its entirety, and she needed an earlier citation. What was interesting was the middleman role she played. We sent her the first document she requested, only to find out the next day that the attorney for whom she was working wanted to try and find other references to the Indiana Administrative Code citation in earlier registers. This ended up being a case of a non-answerable reference question, but I was able to provide both the proposed and final rules for the attorney. Wanting to make sure I had not missed any other useful resources, I sought the advice of another member of the reference staff; after explaining the situation, I was surprised when this librarian told me that the information I had found was correct, but that I should do no more for this attorney. Which leads me to my lesson of the week:
Lesson learned: While it is my job as a reference intern to assist patrons with their questions, it is not my job to conduct attorneys’ research for them. The situation would be different if I were an intern at the firm, but at an academic institution, this is not my role.
This week has been project-intensive for my internship. The desk has been relatively quiet compared to other weeks, which has allowed me to cover much more ground on my assigned reference project; the initial phase of it is nearly complete – soon we will be discussing how to present it online.
In addition, two other reference librarians came to me with projects this week. I am grateful that so many members of the reference staff have sought me out for assistance on their projects. Each project is completely different from the last, giving me a better understanding of the broad range of research interests in this field.
Although the reference desk was quieter than it has been, it was by no means silent! Much of my direct work with patrons this week has involved assistance in tracking down books and electronic resources, resulting in one-on-one instruction in database and OPAC search strategies. I quite enjoy these individualized teaching experiences, and added to the new reference projects I have been asked to assist with, I count this a quite satisfactory week!
Lesson learned this week: Research interests and endeavors are seemingly limitless in law librarianship; most anything one might think of in this field could be of benefit to the profession, the public, or one’s patrons.