As we get closer to finals, I’ve noticed that the reference desk is getting busier and busier, this week being no exception.
On Monday I assisted several types of patrons with questions: I helped track down the best resource for a student in a law librarianship course; I aided a pro se patron in locating print resources on Indiana case law; I suggested resources and search strategies for a law student working on a comparative law paper. Finally, I worked on an email reference question one of the reference librarians had received. This question sought information on a brand new Indiana law the patron had heard mention of (by description, not title or citation!) and wanted to learn more about. All in all, a busy but productive day!
Tuesday (as seems to be typical) was a little quieter than Monday. A professor from another campus department called in looking for electronic legal resources available to non-law affiliates that she could use to conduct some education law research. Originally she was asking for access to Westlaw, but, since this is only available to the law school community, we recommended Lexis Nexis Academic instead, as its contents are coextensive with the law community’s Lexis access. At the end of my shift, one of the law librarianship students was replacing me at the desk to work some reference hours as a part of her coursework, so for the last five minutes or so I talked to her about what sorts of questions I have seen most often and generally what to expect at the desk.
This Wednesday I worked an evening reference shift for a librarian who was out of town, in addition to the three afternoon hours I always work on Wednesdays. During the afternoon, I worked with another pro se patron who wanted to see some current petitions for grant of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the patron was planning to make a similar petition soon. I found that the simplest place to locate current petitions was on the Court’s website, under the Docket information; I showed the patron what I had found and how I had gotten there, and the patron was very grateful for the assistance. I also had an international student getting her SJD come by a couple of times, asking that I edit some letters for her to make sure they were professional and polite. Personally, I really enjoy editing, so I was happy to help; talking to a librarian afterward, however, I was advised that the staff is split on whether this is an appropriate role for a reference librarian to fill. I think I’ll talk to my internship advisor for his opinion on what I should do in the future. Surprisingly, the evening was quite popular as well! A journalism student I worked with last Tuesday when filling in evening hours was back for more communications law resources. I found a few good databases and directed her to the FCC’s website (she was looking for current events in communications law), and she was thrilled with what I found! She later returned with a legal citation she had found that she needed to have “interpreted” for her. Experiences with students such as her reinforce for me why I want to be a law librarian. I also spoke to a 1L that evening; at first he came in because he knows I am a student preparing to be a law librarian, and he is interested in knowing a student’s perspective on this career path; but as we talked he actually ended up with a reference question for me on behalf of a friend. The friend was looking for resources on American legal history bibliographies, and after an IUCAT search, I was able to direct this student to several titles that would be helpful for his friend.
As is often typical of Thursdays, this Thursday ended my internship week on a quite note. A few patrons came in with directional questions, and a law student phoned in wondering whether there was any access to the Bluebook (handbook on legal citation) anywhere online, because she did not have access to her print copy. I explained that there was not a free e-Bluebook, but told her of a LibGuide at Georgetown on Bluebook for cases and statutes. However, I cautioned her that I could not guarantee the completeness of the information on that site, and that the best advice I could give would be for her to come to the library and use one of our print copies.
Lesson learned this week: I suppose this is a given, but it did come up with week – just because a patron says “I searched [insert name of resource] and found nothing” doesn’t mean there was nothing there – it just means the patron didn’t find it. It never hurts to go back and check that resource again.