I love working the Reference Desk. I enjoy teasing information out of patrons when they don’t have the words for what they really want, connecting them with the resources we own, and finding answers. I’m glad that my new job allows me to work 8 hours a week on the Reference Desk – it makes me feel more connected to the community I serve, and can sometimes, like today, help validate my career choice. The reference interview began, as so many do, at the service desk. The patron brandished an assignment sheet in the air, as if to emphasize the “impossible” things her teacher was asking her to do. We needed to find over 40 picture books in several different categories.
However, this was not a teenager for an assignment at a public school. It was an adult completing a professional development assignment for her job at the YMCA. The assignment had multiple parts. The student was asking for my help in identifying over 40 picture books for young readers that would be useful in different situations. The different categories of picture books included general picture books, books with rhyme or poetry, books which are therapeutic (neither of us were confident about what the teacher desired for this term – physical, psychological, or some other type of therapy?), and several other types.
The student and I discussed what she hoped to accomplish with my help, and agreed to begin by locating a few books during this visit and introducing her to the organization used in the Youth section. We agreed that this assignment was challenging because we were overwhelmed by options, and spoiled for choice. The challenge wouldn’t be finding books that met her criteria as much as it would be identifying which books were the best match.
We began by locating a few titles on the library catalog, and then I led her over to the Youth Department. I pointed out the different locations in which specific books could be found, and explained the reasons behind separating them in this way. And since it had been a number of years since she had last used the Dewey Decimal System, I gave her a quick overview of its organization.
By the time I left her browsing the picture book collection, she had amassed a thick collection of books. Her eyes were sparkling, and she told me that she was “really excited about this project now!” I felt confident that she would return for more books, and that she identified the public library as a resource for her job.
A great, but unexpected, benefit to this interaction was that I was later approached by parents for help in identifying books for their children – perhaps because they had witnessed my assistance in finding those picture books and explaining the library’s organization to the adult student.