Thinking about people as reference sources

An anecdote, and thinking about people as reference sources: "But it also got me thinking about how often we do (or don’t) use other people as reference sources. Oh, sure, we refer students to other offices on campus when appropriate, or we call up other offices to find out, for example, whether the dorm beds are regular-twin-sized or XL-twin-sized. But how often do we call someone up or stick our head into someone’s office and say, “hey, do you happen to remember what the capital of Zimbabwe is?”"

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Love it, Blake! That is so

Love it, Blake! That is so true. Maybe it's part of the reason libraries are, in general, slow to grok social media. It's *all* about asking others.

Lichen

Great story

I think whether we know someone well enough to ask them a question on a subject. There are your friends who you know their interests and experiences and there are the people you know, but not well. You get snippets of things, like you overhear them talking about their holiday to Cuba or someone mentioning that they are a member of a College rowing club.
So you tuck that little bit of information away if you ever want to know about Cuba or rowing.
Then theres the general information. Find an italian to ask about something someones written in Italian that doesn't make sense after going through Google's translator for instance.

As a librarian or any sort of information professional you'll become someone that is assumed to know a lot about everything. It might be that you don't know it, but you know a man who does.
Also depends on where you are located. My Library is next to the Common Room so I'm effectively at the centre of the unit anyway, so often I might be the closest person to ask anyway!

Library school

This is something we actually covered in library school. One of our instructors discussed a study that had been done that looked at what resources people used to answer questions. The study showed that people started with the people around them, especially friends and family and worked out from there. If their friends did not know then they turned to other resources like libraries etc. I think the study was either pre-Internet or embryo-Internet so I don't think it looked at that much. But the idea you got from the study was that people used resources close to them first. Since your computer is sitting or your desk it would be safe to say that people consult Google in the early stages of research.

"Shirley Booth."

one time, before the Internet, my phone rang and the voice asked, "Who played Hazel on TV?" I didn't recognize the voice asking. So I answered, then asked why they called me, an apparent stranger. "Oh, someone told me you'd know." And she hung up.

tried it

I tried this through email to a high school football coach and was completely ignored. However, I work with a lady who is known to "phone a friend" during her reference shift.

Very successful use

I had a student come in doing a project on managing a live band for school. She knew nothing about music. I knew nothing about music, and she needed to know the proper set up for a live rock band on a stage. Luckily, I have a friend who's a stage manager for both musical and theatrical productions, and was able to get him on the phone to talk to her. he answered all her questions and got her some great references that I would not have known about.
My friend had great fun with it, and enjoyed being "Reference Librarian For A Day" and the student came back later to say that she had not only gotten an A on the project, but extra credit for giong above and beyond.

Thinking about people as reference sources

"This is something we actually covered in library school. One of our instructors discussed a study that had been done that looked at what resources people used to answer questions. The study showed that people started with the people around them, especially friends and family and worked out from there. If their friends did not know then they turned to other resources like libraries etc."

Yes we discussed that as well. As it turns out, this happens quite a bit in the communities I am a part of, especially with the women. We ask each other for information all the time....and because I am a librarian, I seem to be asked more than others, but if I don't know, you can sure bet I know someone who does.

Much of the time, I even have people call my dad, he knows a lot about history & politics & sports.

It's good to keep the personal touch there...I like the person to person contact and I'll use the internet only when I have no one person to contact.

Catalog your experts

I used academic experts on campus frequently when I was an academic reference librarian. But since I knew who knew what, and newer librarians didn't, I made a subject index for them of local expertise. See my article on this at

http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib195.html

Marylaine Block

Duh

No matter how much information is at my fingertips the bottom line is it ALL comes from people and I cannot be an expert in everything. What I can do is be the person willing to ask the question and relay the answer in a quick, confidential manner using whatever tools I have.

If that involves an encyclopedia or phoning a friend of mine in Quebec I know is paid to do what the question involves then it so be it. Heck, one reference problem I received was solved by calling a friend and asking her to look in her fridge.

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