I got to be an unruly teenage patron! All fun aside (but only just), it was interesting to be a patron in the reference scenario. I admit, I kept wanting to help the reference staff… I knew what I wanted, I knew where to find it, and I knew I could do it more quickly. So, why would I need to ask them the question in the first place? However, I am not the persona I put on in this particular situation. If I was in fact a high school student who was taking her first economics class, it is not beyond belief that I would not know what I wanted or where to find it. If that was the case, I would most assuredly not do it more quickly. It is also not beyond belief that that particular persona exists. Almost everyone has to learn some kind of civics or economics at some point in high school. So where I, who have taken many upper level economics courses and could find the answer to our warm up question blindfolded, another person may not know where to start.
My question is, when you reach a certain level of understanding about information literacy, is reference dead? Certainly, I would not seek out reference help for that particular question. However, I also know I am not omniscient. In fact, I know absolute nothing about physics. If I needed to find something about physics, I would ask a reference librarian. Yet, I would not ask right away. First, I would try to find the answer myself. I feel like I would have a decent idea of where to look because I am a baby librarian who knows a thing or two about how information works and is stored. Once again, reference is dead in this one person world. That being said, I am a firm believer that you cannot know everything about everything and that someone will always know more about something than me.
Personally, I do not believe reference is dead. Even if someday, I am the reference librarian all reference librarians turn to in their time of need and it is dead in my own little world, it will not be dead. People will need help. Even if they no longer need the type of help given historically, they will need help with new types of things. I am in favor of the alternate saying (that we noted in class was less clickbait-y) – reference is different.
I can’t prove this based on the data we looked at in class. I looked at the survey of patrons. All sampling and question format issues aside, the survey did not focus on on the patrons use the library. Instead, if focuses on if, how, when, and why patrons use MelCat. There was no information about how patrons use the actual library, how often they ask staff questions, or what types of questions they ask. In all the discussions of the impeding, if not historic, death of reference, I have not seen any compelling supportive data. The only statistics I have heard, although I do not know the sample sizes or populations, show that more people are using libraries than ever. If reference is dead, changing, or staying the same is a very contentious issue about which many people with a variety of opinions are writing. I would like to see some very concrete research to support their statements.
I did not realize when I entered this program how important research would turn out to be. Where research and complicated statistics were the bread and butter of my undergraduate experience, I thought that Library Science would be similar to an English degree with heavy reading and writing components. It has been interesting to learn more and see how important real research is to the library community from the big unsolved issues like reference to a simple overview of what collections patrons are using in a public library. I look forward to seeing what other preconceptions I possess and in what interesting ways they are eventually debunked. I suppose I could even think of this journey through UMSI as my own personal research project into doing just that.