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A Seldom Used Ally
User: Admin
Date: 1/30/2012 1:47 pm
Views: 6026
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A number of doctoral students mentioned that they have never used reference librarians. There are stories of rude librarians, unresponsive librarians and the student fumbling when asking for help. The fumbling probably came from asking an unclear question. If the librarian is not able to answer or understand what you are looking for, then this is excellent feedback that you are not quite clear where you are going. It is like trying to navigate around Chicago with a New York map.

Any time you are not understood when asking a question or presenting an idea for your dissertation, realize that this is great feedback. Instead of getting frustrated with the other person, take a deep breath and sort out what you want to ask and then try again. Running ideas and questions past others is a wonderful time saver if you are able to closely listen to what they are telling you in their words or actions. The librarian is not out to “get you”, slow you down or make you look bad. Some of the doctoral students I have interviewed had a great deal of anger (years later) at the librarians and the library system. That surprised me since I had positive experiences with the librarians and found them to be tremendously helpful.  I was persistent when I needed something and did not allow any librarian to brush me off. I was on them like a bulldog on a pork chop.  I was nice but I needed answers and over time I learned how to approach them.

The biggest surprise is that many librarians already knew I was a doctoral student as I approached them. I guess I had that frantic look in my face and posture, I was older and I was in the library usually from 8-12pm. So being nice is very important because making them angry can make them very uncooperative. They can be slyly uncooperative in a very passive aggressive way that only appears like they are trying to help you. I suggest being polite and not having a snide attitude. The last thing you want is a bored librarian having some fun by sending you on worthless searches. I mean stand in the library and look around at all those millions of books and even more is stored in the computers.  Realize the person you need as your ally is right there. So treat the librarian as a person of value even if you have had a bad day or are in a hurry.

Be nice and ask for help. If they have a name tag use their name and introduce yourself. “Hi Chris I am, Joe Bob, a doctoral student working on my dissertation and I need some guidance”.  Slow down, smile and make eye contact. If you act impatient or temperamental then apologize and explain you are working full time and completing your doctoral thesis and are short of sleep. That will do wonders. If you will be in the same library a lot, write down the librarians name and a brief description. Greet them as you walk by next time being far enough away to not be reading their name tag. Over time that library will be a friendlier place and the librarians on that shift will know you on sight. It changes the mood for you and for them. When you do ask for help you will have their full attention.

Librarians have all sorts of training in complex issues and technology. Do not walk away and ignore them if you have had bad interactions with them in the past. Actively seek out their help and ask them “How would you go about this task?” Then listen and ask follow up questions. Stop by the desk on your way out and thank them if you found the advice helped you.  If you run into an unpleasant librarian then try another. Have you have been embarrassed by one?  Get over that and start using this resource to save you time and aggravation.

Do a gut level check when you go into the library. If you feel uneasy then you need to change your state of mind in order to take advantage of the assistance that is available. Recognize the stress and combat it with slow deep breathing and some positive affirmations about earning your degree. Visualize yourself after you graduate and put a smile on your face. Make a conscious effort to smile at others including the staff. Decide that you are going to be at the library for two hours only and that you will have a good time and accomplish a lot. You are at the highest level of learning in the country and you were selected out of many applicants. Focus on the success that awaits you and not on what you are missing right now. Put out a warm feeling to those that you meet and focus on your tasks. Most people will reciprocate what you are giving off except for most other doctoral students. Your warmth and cheerful focus will really annoy them. That used to be you. That harried, unhappy person is what you used to look like. Let's draw folks to us to help us and not scare them away.