I was always terrible at magic tricks. Occasionally my mother would play along and ignore my completely obvious tells, but she was the only one. The rest of my family made sure to quickly kill my dreams of becoming a magician. And when Hagrid didn’t come bust down my door at the age of 13 I had to come to terms that magic was not going to be a part of my future. Until I became a librarian…
People look at you like you just turned water into wine, when you are able to help them at the reference desk quickly pull up articles that relate perfectly to their topic. Patrons know that obviously you have been trained in an ancient secret language when you are able to take a random compilation of letters and numbers and take them exactly to the book they are wanting. The largest part of my job is handling our Inter-library loan requests. Before I forward any patron article request out to potential lending libraries I make sure a run a simple Google search for the article title in “quotes.” So far this year I have been able to fill 18% of my article requests instantly.
From a customer service stand-point I love it. I am able to send a patron within minutes an article that they had almost given up hope of gaining access to. Patrons are incredibly happy and they view me as the magical librarian who is able to destroy Elsevier’s pay-wall dementors. Customer satisfaction is high and they are likely to return again and again for their next information incantation need.
However from an information literacy standpoint, I hate it. I feel like our library and the systems they have interacted with before us have completely failed these students. An LC call number is not a magical code. Patrons should be able to use those numbers to easily locate a specific items, and even beyond that they should have a grasp on the letters and numbers that correspond to their areas of interest. Student’s should understand the research process and be able to stick with their topic and dig up resources even when they don’t appear instantly after one keyword search. They should be able to approach from a different angle, and narrow down their topics using our database filtering tools. And they should know about the amazing open source movement. In the middle of the night when they stumble on that perfect article citation and find that the library doesn’t have immediate full-text access, they should know that hope is not lost. That a quick Google search might rescue their paper due at 8am; and that chances are one out of five times it will!
It is critically important that we remember our goal is not simply to solve a patron’s immediate need, but instead to empower by forming them into information literate individuals. Keep the magic alive; make sure your patrons needs are met and that they have a phenomenal experience. While doing that remember, “A librarian always reveals their secrets”