Thursday, April 14, 2011

Print reference?!?!

Today I am at my last Basic Library Techniques (BLT) course, after this I am certified to be a library director - in a town of 10,000 or fewer residents in Massachusetts. OK those are a lot of terms and conditions, but I've gone through workshops in Library Administration, Collection Development, Cataloguing and now I am finishing up with Reference. Prior to this workshop I read Reference and Information Services as well as Introduction to Reference Work vol I and vol II by Katz. A lot of the stuff from this workshop I am in right now is review, but they are also plugging holes in areas that I opted to not read up on (like Children's Librarianship and Young-Adult Librarianship - I have no interest in these fields).

In any case, one thing is really perplexing about the homework. Among other things in this workshop we were given a set of questions that we needed to answer using ONLY print materials. Seriously? What is this 1959? Now granted, many small libraries do not have access to the electronic databases and indexes that I have access to in an academic library, but using only print resources to answer reference questions seems like tying both hands behind your back and  putting 50-kilo weights on your feet and telling you to go run a marathon. is it doable? of course! But it takes longer to get to the same result! I really don't get it.

The second thing that is a bit perplexing about reference comes as an anecdote from someone who attended Simmons (a major name in librarian training).  Apparently their intro to reference course requires a sit-down exam where future librarians are asked to tell the professor which sources they would look in for answer to specific questions (based on what's in the Katz books). Now don't get me wrong, it's nice to have the Katz books as reference material to look where to look things up in; however if your library does not have the reference materials listed in the book, what good is it to know that you can likely find the answer in Book A when you don't have access to Book A? It's better, in my opinion, to know your reference collection inside out, and do some collection development to improve your reference collection. These type of rote memorization learning exercises are useless.

That said, I am now BLT certified.
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