Quick Thinking

cc image – flickr.com – planetschwa

Some jobs require quick thinking. Air traffic controller. ER doctor. Improv actor. They have to be great at thinking quickly and intelligently, or they are out of a job.

Librarians need quick thinking too. People want answers to questions, and they want it NOW! I got a little experience thinking on my feet when I did homework that involved practice reference transactions. I would pair up with another student and we’d practice answering questions on the spot using only free internet resources.

Now that I’m working in a public library answering questions all day, I find myself wanting to jump to conclusions or habitually only looking in certain places. My quick thinking may not suffice in the end, though, and someone leaves dissatisfied or still looking for an answer that suits their needs.

Naturally, I’ve been aware of my interactions with patrons because I’m new at this. And I really like helping people so I want to get better at it. Slowly, I’ve been collecting tips and tricks from my fellow librarians who know much more than I do. The full-time cataloger who has a few shifts at the reference desk has been extremely helpful with giving me new ways to search the catalog to find books. It’s already improved my response time tremendously. I also walk around the stacks or click around on the library’s website to get acquainted with the massive amount of information we have access to. I think another great exercise would be to give myself random questions and see how fast I could answer them.

Here’s some questions I’ve gotten lately that had my brain sputtering:

  • What are the side effects or dangers of zeolite?
    • I searched online for this “zeolite.” My first reaction to the “side effects” part was that they should consult their physician. We are not in the business of giving health advice. When the patron heard this, they were immediately discouraged and ended the interaction. After searching the internet some more, I found some basic info on the Sloan Kettering website that could have been useful to them without breaking the “no medical advice” rule.
  • Do you have any audio books about math?
    • Hmm. This was a hard one because there just wasn’t anything to fill his need. I showed him some audio books in which math was mentioned as a smaller topic within a broader science context. I did use the tips I learned from the cataloger to make my catalog search more precise.
  • Which Kennedy had an annulment?
    • I guess this one was hard because she kept saying that it was Robert Kennedy and it was actually Joseph Kennedy II. Sometimes people think they have their facts right but they don’t always. A Google search for “Kennedy annulment” did the trick. But I got stuck because of her prejudgment about who had the annulment.
  • I need some easy listening music CDs.
    • We don’t have an easy listening category in our music CD collection. I know this used to be a category when browsing in some CD stores back in the day (I remember those days….). So I had to give suggestions, like jazz or classical. Sorry, dude!

 

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