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It’s All in the Family

What’s a boy to do when he has a paper due and his library’s reference desk isn’t open any more? Call his librarian big sister, of course! And this he did, several months ago. I was driving up to a swing dance and got a call that went something like this…

“Ok, so you’re in PsychINFO now? What color is the screen, and are their 9 search boxes in a grid?… there are? Good, that means you have the same interface as I do. Ok, so scroll down about half way and select “Empirical Study” from the “Methodology” box, and select “animal” from the “population” box. Now try your search and be sure to switch the drop-down boxes next to the search boxes from “Anywhere” to “Keywords.” Ok… now tell me about your search results…”

This went on for almost an hour and finished (luckily) just as I arrived at the dance. In the end I’d talked him through the thesaurus and combining searches in the search history (and thanked my lucky stars that his school gets PsychINFO through CSA just like we do). I’d also scolded him for putting this off beyond the point of being able to check with his own librarians. That’s the part of the reference interview that really and truly diverted from the norm.

Earlier this month I spent part of my parents’ visit finding some specialized sources for my Dad’s research, and then figuring out how to get access to the stuff we found. (Luckily, I used to work at his school’s library, so we could talk through who to ask about a special form that let’s him go borrow from area research libraries.)

Last year at a family reunion, I spent an afternoon looking up and identifying ancient Japanese coins so that my uncles and aunt could figure out what it was that my grandpa had collected over the years.

I was reminded of these incidents by some fragment of a crazy dream I had last night. I’ve already forgotten the dream, but it got me to thinking about how often people turn to the people they know when asking for help. I help my campus community as much as I’m able, day in and day out, in a large part because I make it my business to remind them that they should ask me for help. But then there are my friends and family. These are people who have access to their own librarians, or Google, but I get “reference” questions from them all the time because they know me, Iris, and by extension know that I’m kinda inclined to find things for people. I’m also just there in their lives. They don’t have to go out and ask a question because I’m already there.

But now it’s time to get ready for work. I’ll leave this to ponder another day.

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