I often feel like I stumble through my job by pretending I know what I’m doing. There’s always the lurking fear that if people really knew how much guessing and bluffing I do, they’d never set foot in a library again.
Well, today has been both good and bad. At first I thought it would go down in the annals of my career as the day when all those strategies I was taught in library school, and which I always wish would work every time (but which almost always never really seem to pan out), actually worked! Here’s what happened. We have a new professor coming in the fall who teaches Quebecoise literature (focusing on the postcolonial yummy-ness of that whole colonizer-turned-colonized dynamic that happened in Quebec). Well, the library just isn’t outfitted to serve this type of curriculum yet because our books are bought by our faculty to support the classes they teach. And this whole area has never been taught before. Ergo: no collection to support such an area exists just yet. Not only that, but she wanted a particular edition of a particular French language book because she wanted her students to read the preface of that edition, but she didn’t know which edition it was. After a bunch of messing around in catalogs, I finally interlibrary loaned a bibliography of this author’s works and there it was! The editions of the book were all laid out in one place with descriptions of what changed in each (including prefaces). So, dusting off my 10-year-old French, I deciphered the descriptions and found the appropriate edition. Now I’ve sent the request off to acquisitions and was feeling very, very librarian-ish. Was.
In the midst of emailing this professor to confirm that this was, indeed, the correct edition (and that my tortured memories of French hadn’t betrayed my efforts), a student came up to the desk wanting a 1920s translation of an early Einstein paper. Of all places, after searching in all the “correct” places, Google turned up a footnote explaining where this seminal translation can be found, and Wikipedia turned up a PDF copy of it. So now where do I hand in my library school diploma for shredding?
I guess in the spirit cosmic balance it all evens out. Librarian-ish tenacity and the sussing out of appropriate pointing aids are great sometimes; Google and Wikipedia are great other times. So I guess what makes me a librarian is the fact that I try both places? Who knows.