Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

The Reference Librarian

The reference librarian is one of the researcher's best friends--a professional who knows the smoothest routes through the maze of reference information. A good reference librarian can help you track down almost any information you need, and then ten minutes later will be helping someone else track down information in an entirely different field. Whether you need to find a particular book or to learn how to use the library's computer search resources, the reference librarian is a valuable consultant. 

Most university libraries also have courses or documentation to help you to master the resources of the library. Although we will be outlining in this tutorial many of the basic sources and strategies for library research, we cannot stress enough the importance of utilizing the expertise available in your own library. A university library is much more than just a collection of books.

Many of us still envision librarians as the classic older women whose primary job is to keep patrons from making too much noise, as if they were study hall monitors. That image is out of the horse-and-buggy era. University librarians are the vanguards of the information age. In fact, their skills are in such demand by business, that universities often have difficulty finding enough qualified librarians. 

The reference librarians are a blend of information specialists, detectives, and teachers, who love finding things, learning about new things, and helping others to do the same. In the last 20 years, their job descriptions have changed so rapidly that one could hardly recognize the position. Still, the primary purpose remains the same--helping provide the information that universities run on.

From the perspective of the student or faculty member, the reference librarian serves two distinct roles. The first is to find that specific piece of information to satisfy a current need. Reference librarians can track down the most obscure information with the skills of Sherlock Holmes. The more important role, however, is to help students and faculty learn how to track down information themselves using the resources of the library. Even the most skilled student or faculty member will occasionally be stumped in the search for information, and the reference librarian will come to the rescue. However, with a little effort on your part and a little hands-on training by a skilled librarian, you can become virtually self-sufficient in the majority of your library searches. 

This latter role of training you in the techniques of library science is increasingly critical as libraries move into cyberspace. At most modern university libraries, access to critical resources, such as databases, is no longer restricted to library hours. You can search for information 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and you cannot expect to have a librarian available for help while you are conducting those 3 AM treasure hunts. Just as electric lights freed us to be productive day and night, the move toward an electronic library is breaking the old constraints on productivity.

As the library becomes more complicated and increasingly electronic, the librarian becomes increasingly more important. The librarian's activities have changed over the years, but the role has remained the same--to help patrons find the information necessary to solve the problems that they face.


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