Week 3: Reference

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      Lisa Schofeld

      I started this activity by thinking through my past experiences with reference librarians. When I first went to uni back in 1995 I didn’t even have an email account and the web was not predominate in my day to day activities both as a student and in my personal life. My experience at the Uni library was fairly positive. I was a language student and more often looking for audio/video resources than physical books. The library staff were always very efficient and very friendly helping me to find a particular audio tape and sometimes it could be tricky as it was in a less used section of the library so sometimes particular tapes were difficult to locate. Generally if I can’t find something in the catalogue I will find a librarian to ask but I must admit I never gave much thought to their particular job description. Later on I went back to uni via distance education, the internet was now a fixture in my daily undertakings and became my sole tool for finding information. As a distance student at Charles Sturt Uni and University of New England I would often email the library staff via their website to request photo copies of particular chapters of books only available in hard copy. I would have to pay the 20c per page fee and postage via direct deposit then wait 1-2 weeks for the information to arrive in the mail. This was not convenient at all as 2 weeks is a long time to wait particularly when you have an assignment looming. I also used to visit the State Library of New South Wales and this was an entirely different experience and still run in a very old fashioned way. If you found a book in the catalogue that you wanted to look at you would take one of the carbon backed forms to fill in with the books name and dewy numbers then hand it to the reference librarian. Then you would sit and wait and wait and wait, finally you would go and check the pigeonholes next to the reference desk to find your book waiting for you with the top part of the form wrapped around it. once you were finished you would take it back and it would disappear to god knows where. Later I participated in a tour of this library and found out why it took so long for my request to be processed. Once the reference librarian received your request she would check the details then disappear through a door and take a lift deep underground (they have about 5-7 floors full of books as far as your eye can see all underground. Once the book is located it is then taken all the way back up to the reference desk and deposited into the pigeonhole for you to collect and review.

      Until a couple of months ago I had not visited my local library or joined since 2006! Why, I have a habit of taking too long to get through the books I borrow so I either have to return them before I’m ready or pay the overdue fine. Since purchasing a kindle a few years ago I generally prefer to read my books that way and now that my local library offers e-books I have since rejoined though now that uni has started I don’t have time to do any fun reading. Hopefully at the end of semester I can catch up on my favourite reads.

      Reading the survey results by Saunders on the roles of reference librarians I’m surprised at how much their work is varied and it’s clear to see that there is ever increasing requirements to be tech experts, providing technology support to users where previously this area didn’t exist. It’s clear to me now that I can not expect as a student of Library and Information Practice to ignore the need to learn as much as I can about technology. I’m not a fan of twitter I prefer instagram but I must learn to embrace it as a useful networking tool to meet others in the industry and learn what the latest trends are in the industry. I find as a student now that I much prefer to search for readings, books, journals online as I can access the information wherever I am and have it straight away.




      Saunders, L. (2012). The Reality of Reference: Responsibilities and Competencies for Current Reference Librarians. Public Library Services, 8(2)114-135.

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