Research for ordinary people

Scientists in their labs or historians poring over manuscript collections and archives are researchers. Many of them become well known in their profession, and maybe even with the general public. People who search the web for sites that they then pass on to a writer are also researchers, very likely making $2 an hour somewhere in Asia. They are at the low end of status and responsibility for Internet work. What does either kind of research have to do with most people? Everyone does research. Not everyone does it professionally. For most people, that research is not likely to result … Continue reading

What do you think of this?

Can I bring off something neat I found on another blog? Can I write a blog that consists entirely of questions? After all, aren’t librarians supposed to be good with questions? And don’t librarians and patrons ask each other questions in order to come up with the best answer for the patrons? Since I know that some people come to this blog and spend a lot of time on each visit, are you one of them? If so, will you accept my sincere gratitude? If not, what would it take to make you a regular visitor? What were you looking … Continue reading

They asked the librarian what??

Reference librarians are in the business of answering questions, whether helping someone plan a major research project or pointing the way to the drinking fountain. Most questions are pretty routine, but some patrons ask funny questions. They have no idea what they really want, and occasionally appear not even to understand that they’re in a library. Some patrons want a particular book. They just can’t remember the author or the title. They might ask by color, but often as not, they’re wrong about that, too. Here are some memorably funny reference questions, along with the eventual answers. … Continue reading

Ask a librarian: help the librarian help you

Far beyond the collection, the equipment, or the building, the defining attribute of the library is the presence of librarians. You can ask a librarian how to find what you’re looking for and how to use what you find (catalog, databases, and various equipment). You do not even have to be in the library to ask a librarian a question. You can ask over the phone, by email, by chat, etc. Over the years, librarians have learned that the first question a patron asks is seldom what they really want to know. “I’m looking for books by Mark Twain” seems … Continue reading