What does reference mean anyway?

18 May

question-63916_960_720.jpgI primarily work at our children’s reference desk while at the library.  Although sitting there waiting for someone to ask me a question is not all I do.  I plan a lot of our programming, assign call numbers to new books, select new additions to the library, shelf read, weed and a bunch of other stuff that changes on a day-to-day basis.  I love working children’s reference because, for the most point, children will ask for exactly what they need.  “I want a dinosaur book (sometimes ending with a please, but not always).  At which point I ask, “Do you want a story or do you want facts?”  Which is my way of asking about fiction or nonfiction.  Kids also come up to my desk looking for a specific title or have no clue what they want to read and I help guide them to finding a few titles they might be interested in reading. Sometimes kids need help navigating the Internet on our computers or being able to print images for a school report.  These are all questions that I receive on a regular basis.

But recently, I’ve helped out at the adult reference desk – which is another beast entirely.  The majority of people asking reference questions at that desk involve needing extensive help using the computer, Internet or their own tablet.  For example, an elderly woman needed some help accessing her email account and unfortunately she had forgotten her password.  About 45 minutes later, I was able to retrieve her password through a mix of resetting another email account password through a text and an online conversation with someone from Comcast.  This poor woman hadn’t been able to check her email for months because she couldn’t access her account.  Did I have others things on my to-do list that day?  Of course, but she was so thankful that I spent the time to help her straighten it out and she left our library with access to her email and a smile on her face.

Just yesterday, I helped an older gentleman who wanted to return eBooks when he was done reading them.  He was fairly knowledgeable and understood that they would leave his account when they expired, but he wanted to let others check them out when he was finished with them.  I’ve never returned books from a Kindle before so after a little bit of research on Overdrive and Google.  Amazon had three simple steps on returning eBooks to the library.  He was so thankful for the help and what I loved was that he said when he read print materials he used to read maybe 10-12 books a year.  Last year, with his Kindle, he read over 100.  He loves the technology which makes reading easier for him as he is getting older.

I don’t work reference because I like to be thanked (although it is nice), I work reference to help people.  Whether it’s finding a dinosaur book for a toddler or helping an older adult with technology – these people come into the library for help and I’m so glad that I get to be one of the people who can make their lives a little bit easier!

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2 Responses to “What does reference mean anyway?”

  1. Kate @ Mom's Radius May 18, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    Great stories! Helping people makes a job seem so worthwhile, doesn’t it? When I was in high school, I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people. I remember my uncle telling me, “You don’t have to be a doctor to help people.” I didn’t really get it then, but I do now. I work in IT, but the majority of my job (or at least the parts that bring me satisfaction) is helping people as well.

    • literacious May 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

      IT definitely helps people! And your’re right, you can help in many different career paths.

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