[Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Emily-Jane Dawson ejd at multcolib.org
Sat Oct 20 10:36:54 PDT 2012

Caleb asked, as part of his many-responses-provoking post, for folks to
share whether they had a formal reference class in library school.

I did; in fact I had several reference classes* and I have used what I
learned in these classes every single day of my thirteen years working as a
librarian.  I cannot emphasize that enough: *every single day!*

The reason this study has been so important for me is that it gave me a
solid grounding in how information is structured, and the theoretical and
philosophical approaches our profession takes to patron service,
information retrieval, and many other related topics.  This theory is a
basic structure that can be applied to any reference interaction, on any
subject, in any environment, with any available tools and resources.  I use
my theoretical and philosophical grounding in work with patrons, when I
plan and execute projects and services, in conversation with colleagues,
and as I consider the large and small questions we face as a profession.

Reference work is thrilling because you never know what you'll be asked --
patrons constantly surprise me.  But without the philosophical/theoretical
structure that grounds my information service work, I would be at sea with
each new question.  I'd be a worker without tools.

And that old chestnut, "Is reference dead?" -- I'm sick of it, and I'm sure
you all are too.  Obviously it's not dead, it will never die because people
will always have questions and information problems and they will always
need help.  And clearly we are all quite committed to providing that help
in whatever format or under whatever circumstances we can.

I don't know that I care whether library schools devote a course
specifically to reference or information service or not.  But they *do *need
to drill their students in the theory that grounds reference and
information services work.  Without this grounding, the profession would
profoundly suffer.

 - Emily-Jane

* For those of you who are curious, I attended the University of Maryland's
library school during 1997-1999.  I took Introduction to Reference, which
was required, and also Electronic Reference (basically the theory and
practice of database searching), Social Sciences Reference, Government
Information, and Art Reference.  There was a Humanities Reference class
too, but I wasn't able to take it.  What I missed in library school is
cataloging -- can you believe that?  UM required a classification theory
class only.  I've sorely regretted not taking a cataloging course ever
since because I can see that the lack of it limits my -- here it is again
-- philosophical understanding of this part of our work.

Emily-Jane Dawson | *reference librarian*
Multnomah County Library
  tues-sat: Central Library <http://www.multcolib.org/agcy/cen.html> |
*  follow us: *facebook <http://facebook.com/multcolib> |

"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are
well written, or badly written. That is all."
   – Oscar Wilde, author's preface, *The Picture of Dorian Gray*
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