I currently work as a graduate assistant at a state university answering reference questions online via email, IM and over the phone. It’s a good gig for an academically-overloaded grad student, because the work is giving me practical experience. What I don’t like is the lack of physical interaction. While I get a “thank you” and a smiley face emot-icon, I don’t get the reassurance I need from the customer to know that I have successfully answered their question. And the online setting tends to make me want to be quick and efficient, whereas if I were with the person F2F, I could read them to see if they wanted a quick answer, or had time for more extensive digging. And this is the problem with online reference.
But I digress. The point of this post is to highlight a wonderful little WaPo article (4/9/2010) from the Campus Overload section titled Got a research paper to write? Friend a librarian. And THIS, my doubting Thomas, is why I will always have a job. Why librarians will always be in need.
…because there will always be students with extensive requests. Eleventh-hour freak outs. “Facts” from Wikipedia that need to be double-checked.
Welcome to the world of academic librarians.
Lebanon Valley College librarian Donna Miller compares online information searching to cooking. Just because you know the kitchen doesn’t mean you can whip up a flawless crème brulée. Miller states, “It’s very easy to conduct awful information searches, yet be quite proficient with technology.” While Millenials (Gen Y, those born mid-70s to today) know a computer better than those of other generations, they don’t necessarily know how to find correct, usable information. As Susan McClintock of Meredith College said, “We want them to understand that research is like being a detective. Just looking is not enough. To solve the case you need to look in the best places for the clues. Then you need to analyze the results to make sure you have solved the case.”
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is just one of the many reasons why I will always have a job. Why my degree will never expire. And why I love my field of work.