My boss, Mrs. A, announced that she's going to hold an intensive reference interview training session for everyone on staff. Not that most of us need it. Just some of us. Well, okay, one of us. And, no, not me. It's the usual Suspect.
The other day, Mrs. A found a lady wandering around our upstairs nonfiction room, going from shelf to shelf and looking very lost. Mrs. A asked the lady if she needed help and was told by the lady that she was looking for books about the history of two different local counties and had been told they would be found upstairs. As it turns out, the county histories are actually downstairs in our closed case collection, but that didn't matter so much since the lady hadn't even been given any call numbers to begin with. Just told that she could find the books upstairs in the history section. Nevermind that our history section is the largest section about a given topic in our entire library and sprawls across three different walls. Can you guess the name of the person who sent her upstairs? Why, yes, you are correct in guessing Ms. S.
Mrs. A was naturally unhappy about this turn of events and went down to get Ms. S's side of the story. Surely things could not be as bad as they seemed. No, they were actually worse. She came to find out that Ms. S had no idea that the lady was looking for county histories in the first place. According to Ms. S, she'd been shelving books when the lady came in and asked where she could find histories. Ms. S, rather than going to the OPAC and conducting a reference interview to narrow down the subject to see what precisely the lady was looking for and where precisely on the three walls of history it might be located, didn't even leave her shelving but just told her that history was upstairs and waived a hand in the general area of the ceiling, above which the books were located. (She actually admitted to this, oblivious to the inherent problems.)
Mrs. A explained to her that this was unacceptable and that she should have gone to the OPAC and helped the woman narrow it down, because when it comes to history seekers they're always going to be looking for something specific. And besides that, the books the lady wanted were not upstairs in the first place.
"But I was busy," Ms. S reportedly responded. Yes, that's right: Ms. S, dog turd smeared in thick carpet, carried in on the bottom of the shoes of the very name of good shelvers planetwide that she is, was too busy shelving to help a patron.
"And she has a degree in this," I reminded my coworkers who had gathered to hear Mrs. A's tale.
"Actually, no," Mrs. A said. See, we had been lead to believe that Ms. S had some sort of undergraduate degree in library sciences because she had told us that she'd gone to school for it and had previously worked in a library. However, according to Mrs. A, Ms. S actually has a general studies associate's degree with a library science emphasis. This doesn't actually mean she took any sort of classes about library science. What it means is that she was allowed to intern at a library during her 2 years at school. The particular library she interned with put her on the circ desk where her sole job was to check books in and out. And that was the extent of her training before darkening our door.
"Ahh, so that explains a few things," I said.
"I just can't imagine it," Mrs. A said. "Do you think that if she worked in a restaurant and refused to go over and help a customer because she was busy with something else, they'd let her get away with it?"
I allowed a slight pause.
"Well, she does work in a restaurant," I said. "And I imagine if we went there, we'd see her doing precisely that."
Mrs. A bit her lip. "You're probably right."