My son has been ill for about a week, so my wife and I have been swapping on/off days. As a result, neither one of us has been able to get much work done, even with trying to stay on top of email from home. I have been attempting to play catch-up today which, at eight this morning, seemed like a viable possibility because I only had one desk and one chat shift scheduled. Best laid plans……..all good intentions………etc.
In every class I teach, and in nearly every conversation I have with faculty or students, I encourage patrons to contact me if they ever have a question. I make myself available in a variety of ways: via email, chat, IM, phone, or even in person. I usually encourage the first three methods as the primary option because this allows me to handle the question as time permits, or enables me to set up an appointment to discuss the question further. Business questions can be very tricky, and it may take a while to find the perfect industry analysis or market outlook. With the more advanced questions, I feel better prepared when I have some sense of a topic before meeting a patron face-to-face. I think that if I am able to do some preliminary searching before meeting the patron, I can save time during the actual reference interview. Also, if a person stops by to see me unannounced, it is often likely that I may be in one of the many meetings that I attend, or it might be my night to work and therefore I’ve taken the afternoon off.
I don’t have office hours, so if I am at the library working and available, my time essentially belongs to the patron. Usually if someone comes in and asks for me by name, I’ll drop what I’m doing and help him or her out. Most of the time the questions are fairly routine, so I can teach the patron how to find the necessary information, and then try to get back to the project at hand. Unfortunately, my to-do list keeps getting longer and longer, because I find that I am talking to more and more patrons. While sometimes frustrating, I have come to realize that the projects can wait, even if deadlines are missed and the inbox never gets anywhere near empty. The true joy of this job is talking with students and faculty, supporting them in their research needs, helping them learn, and contributing to the collective knowledge of the university.
Today, the questions were anything but routine, as I was visited by two graduate students and a faculty member. The first student was a masters of financial economics student who needed to do a regression analysis of several stocks and stock indices. His thesis advisor apparently passed my name on to him. His question involved using a complex database that takes a great deal of time to learn, so we agreed to meet later this week.
The second student came in while I was doing Business Chat for our statewide consortium. He sat in my cube with me as I answered a few chat questions, and we talked about his MBA small business competition. He was working on a business plan for a local company interested in selling urban or hip-hop apparel. We spent about an hour talking and searching a few business databases. One of the cool things about this particular conversation was something the guy said. He recalled that we had originally met at a library orientation session that I gave to all the MBA students last September. He said, “Well, you said if we ever needed help to come by and see you. So, here I am. ”
My final tough one of the day was an accounting professor who was just beginning the research for a comparative analysis of Russian and U.S. accounting ethics. This was one of those ‘I’ll have to get back to you on that one’ questions. He was satisfied with that answer, and we talked for a few more minutes about libraries and shrinking library budgets.
What made today unique was not necessarily the number of visitors, but rather the type of patron who came to the library to see me. As our university serves a large undergraduate population, most of my patron interactions are with undergraduate business students. Perhaps once a week I get the chance to talk to a faculty member or graduate student about his or her research needs. Three in one day is almost unheard of. I enjoyed the challenge of the conversations and questions, and it looks like I’ll have some challenging research topics to play with. Once again, it looks like that to-do list will have to wait until tomorrow.