reference work

I have been following with great interest the comment thread on Steven M. Cohen’s post on librarian searching skills. and the resulting brouhaha.

Searching Electronic Databases was by far the most useful class I took in library school (or, err, that I have taken so far in library school–the problem with having a Real Job 1400 miles away from one’s school is that you tend to forget that you’re still in school). But there are some kinds of questions that no electronic database can answer. In fact, not even your favorite search engine can answer them.

We don’t get a lot of reference questions at my library, although I’m trying to encourage them. I’m a librarian–ask me questions! Your tax dollars at work! Partly, of course, we’re still struggling to get people to know that we are a public library, not just a library for the school.

The other day, though, we did get a reference question. A patron who is supervising some 4-H stuff came by to ask about the price of hogs. Now there are, I suppose, numerous sources of information about hog prices in northwestern Wyoming. As I have mentioned before, there is no such thing as a good source of information–there are only good sources of information for particular topics. But in this particular instance, the most expeditious and most useful source was my co-worker, who had been in charge of a similar 4-H event last year. Some day I hope to be able to do as well for our patrons as she can.

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