Week 4 Readings:
- What is Reference for? – Joseph Janes
- Question-Negotiation and Information Seeking in Libraries – Robert S. Taylor
- The Information Search Process – Kuhlthau
I love how these readings, and readings from past weeks, simultaneously build upon one another and turn each other on their heads. The past weeks have been all about putting yourselves in the patron’s shoes, feeling their emotion and seeing how the librarian’s react to your inquiries. Those experiences were mirrored by the Kulhthau reading, especially when she examines the importance of being cognizant of where people are emotionally when they come to the library desk. The idea of invitational versus indicative moods were especially interesting to me. If someone approached you in an invitational mood and you attempted to help them accomplish a task, the interaction would be frustrating on both sides of the desk. While if a patron came to the librarian in an indicative mood and the librarian drew them into a long discussion of what to explore and the many avenues they could take, the patron who is looking for a quick closure would experience similar feelings of frustration.
This reading really created a sense of closure and gave me a broad understanding regarding our Observation Assignment. I was able to see the issue from both sides. First, as the patron, I experienced the frustration of being treated like I wanted closure when I wanted a wide variety of information. I was unsure of how to deal with it when I took up the mantle of librarian. The reading allowed me to separate patrons into different categories. Categories that I can determine by asking the user questions. If I ask these questions, I would be able to better serve my future community. Each reading adds a bit of color to the picture of a librarian I have painted in my head and slowly it is becoming more complete.
The Taylor reading builds upon the idea of where the patron is coming from emotionally, in a slightly less emotional manner. Instead of emotion he examines need and determines four distinct levels: visceral, conscious, formalized, and compromised. Both authors are concerned with the communication aspect of libraries. That is how libraries as a unit, and then there librarians, as individuals, communicate with their community. To communicate effectively, they much understand where their community is coming from (that is what state they are in when the come to a library for help) in order to help them and meet their needs. The interconnectivity of the community, library, librarian, and patron (along with other variables that I have not yet discovered) are fascinating, especially as there is no one patron or one community.
The library and librarian have to recognize that some standard system will never meet the needs of all patrons or every community. The most important thing is to determine where someone is coming from both in terms of emotions and needs. Our job is to serve them, to help them, and to empower them. If to do that we have to also understand them, then it is simply another necessary step. It may turn out that certain questions will reveal where a patron is coming from or you may need to constantly adjust tactics. It will be interesting to see how this understanding is integrated into reference service and librarianship in general.