Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Non-Library People Logic

Jill Silverberg

So here’s a funny story: last week while I was working at the reference desk at a medical and pharmaceutical college, a group of students approached me with a question. Normally the sort of questions that I get asked usually pertain to one of two subjects: ready reference such as location of bathrooms or the color printers OR questions related to one of the college’s many databases. This question was not related to either. Instead, the student wanted to know if I could apply my reference skills to help her track down not a book or an article but…

*drum roll*
I really wish that this was just some made up anecdote.
Want to know my reaction?
Needless to say that this reference interview didn’t last particularly long. After the student and her friends walked away, I was left wondering why exactly she thought that I would be the person best suited for the task of semi-stalking some stranger. This encounter, coupled with things I experienced way back when I worked in another academic library, has led me to the conclusion that there are two different sets of logic when it comes to matters related to library and information science. Let’s call set one ‘Library People Logic’ and set two ‘Non-Library People Logic’.
For those who fall into set one, these are people who posses a total or somewhat understanding of LIS related processes and responsibilities. Basically, they understand the ways in which a library, archive, or repository and the professionals working there can help them. They possess some degree of library literacy although it can certainly vary. In short, they think, for the most part, the ways in which someone working the LIS field would think when it comes to matters related to LIS.
Those who fall into set two, on the other hand, are those whose thinking runs totally counter to what we would expect. Case in point, students who approach a Reserve Desk and simply state that they ‘Need a book for class,” and then stare at you, expecting you to read their minds. These are the same people who think describing a book’s color will help us narrow down the list of potential books to the one that they need. While I totally understand that not everyone is exposed to strategies and skills for performing research or using a library/archive, sometimes I just am stupefied by some of the questions I have been asked or behaviors that I have seen. These are also the people whose idea of organization includes just putting books or whatever on a shelf without thought. Or the ones who think a reference librarian can find some guy from Tinder.
To put it bluntly, those who possess non-library people logic confuse me. Of course this shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering that I am seeking a degree in a field that is all about organization, ease of access, and, to some degree, logic. However, I don’t think the problem is that there aren’t enough people who possess library people logic, but rather, how do we help train others in library logic? 
One way to rectify this situation would be to integrate the library into a school’s curriculum. This could be something done at both the primary, secondary, and collegiate level.  At the medical college, students have three LIS modules that cover topics related to library policies: how to use the online catalog and regional/local access, research and retrieval strategies, and overviews of more complex indexes and resource databases, citation guides, and usage of online search engines. Students must complete the modules before graduation otherwise they cannot graduate. A program like this squarely injects the library into the academic lives of its students and encourages strong ties between itself, its librarians, and the students.
The way I see it, the more familiar and comfortable a student is with their library the less likely a librarian will be asked to play Tinder matchmaker.