Bother A Librarian Today

young men at reference desk, early 20th century
A librarian’s dream: Patrons lining up at the reference desk! (image via NYPL Digital Collections)

“I hate to bother you, but…”

Just stop right there.

Librarians want to be bothered.

We are waiting for your questions.

Each question is an adventure. You ask for help; we go on a quest to seek the information. The puzzle to figure out the best keywords to pull up better articles is a mystery to be solved. 

We like to wonder. We wonder if we can find your information. We wonder if we can find better information. Do we have enough? Is it new enough? We wonder if we can get closer to what you want.

Don’t apologize for not knowing. We may not know either. The discovery of charting unfamiliar territory is like being an explorer. We like to explore and see where it goes. Not having been there before makes it better.

We may look busy, but are we? If we are at the desk, we are ready to serve. What would we look like if we just did nothing waiting? We would have our arms crossed and be looking all over the place. This would not last long because in a matter of moments the librarian would be out of the chair and in the aisles asking if you need help. This approach has been tried. The concept is called roving librarian. The librarians are assigned to stay out among the books offering assistance.

Two Bay Shore librarians looking forward to answering your queries! Sdf9 sdjka;f
Two Bay Shore librarians (Laurel Scheinfeld and Joan Wagner) who love to answer questions (even if they might look busy at the desk)

Looking busy and being busy are two different things. It is understood at the reference desk that a librarian cannot be really busy, because our main function is to help you. Librarians are naturally curious and need to feed this appetite all the time. Add a little wonderment and we are off learning about something. This most likely is what you see us doing. Ask away. We are waiting for you.

Maybe it’s the desk?  A reference desk long ago could be just a desk with a reference sign.  Today they are looking a little like a space ship command center.  Isn’t that fitting? Today a reference librarian has the world at her finger tips. We find this just amazing. A humongous amount of information on anything and we can just pull up. We know because some of you do ask us for help.

kew gardens reference desk
Touro student getting help at the Kew Gardens Hills reference desk. Don’t be shy!

You ask for information, and we take it as a challenge to our ability to produce the information.  The opportunity to take on a challenge and dig deep is like a dog not letting go of his bone. We are on the quest until we are done.  Always on the forefront is: Can we do this? All we discover along the way on this trip is fantastic. Sometimes we find information that is good to know for all students. Your one question could help us learn something for all students. Ask away. We are waiting.

Contributed by: Joan Wagner, Chief Librarian, Bay Shore

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