12 June 2010

Day 77: Bud, Not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.  ISBN: 9780385323062.

Ugh, I managed to catch this awful cold/allergy-induced type of misery from my fiance.  Thanks baby, nothing says love like a head full of mucus alternately escaping from my face in buckets and solidifying into brick form.  Noo, can't have constant moderate dripping where at least I would feel better from the draining, it's either all or nothing.  Stupid bodies.  I can't wait till I can trade this one in for a perfect simulated skin, etc. robot body.

Oh hi, kids' book, um yeah.  After Bud runs away from his foster home he goes to the library to figure out what to do next.  He's looking for a specific librarian, Miss Hill.  He searches for her several times, but eventually goes to ask another librarian where she's gone.  The way that Bud reacts to the other librarian and the relationship he had with Miss Hill tells me a lot about what kind of a librarian she was.

She was a librarian who was willing to give just the right amount of information based on what the patron needed.  The other librarian Bud approached was certainly trying to be helpful and did expose Bud to a resource he would later use again, but she didn't really help him with his problem.  I can't assume you've read the book, so let me tell you what happened.

Bud approached the librarian asking where Miss Hill was.  The librarian responded in a chatty manner, rather than addressing the question directly.  The librarian tells Bud that Miss Hill had been married and moved to Chicago.  Bud asked her how far away that was.  Rather than giving him a fairly direct answer or asking how much information he wanted, the librarian launches into "teaching moment" battle mode.  In library school we are beaten over the head to look for "teaching moments" and use them to teach our patrons to fish for their own damned selves.  They make it sound like a science, but it's not.  It's truly an art form of knowing when someone is receptive to instruction versus when they're just too busy and want to get on with their lives.

ud just wanted to get on with his life.  He didn't really have time to be told, not only how many miles away Chicago was from Flint, Michigan, but the average gait of an adult male and then the figuring of how long it would take to walk to Chicago.  Today it's easier to provide those answers so there's not reason not to provide that answer, you can pull up Google Maps and switch into Walking Mode. But for instance, if I had been asked Bud's question and had the resources they had in the Depression (the period the book was written about), I would have limited myself to finding the mileage.  If Bud continued to ask the additional question of how long it would take to walk, that's when I would pull out the additional sources if he wouldn't accept an estimate.  I've found in library work that some people just want a second opinion to judge their own against.  I'm okay providing that if it's what they need and they're not planning to use it for research or in lieu of legal/health/financial advice.

I loved being able to teach in my reference position at Kent State University Library.  Don't get me wrong, but there was a very fine line about what people will let us teach them.  Yes, there were times when students prevented us from teaching them how to do research.  This means that they came back to us over and over again.  This behavior reduces their research hours and the resources they're able to use because they usually wait until the last minute, and I know their research suffers for it.  There's a webcomic* that covered the topic recently (May 24th and 26th) that I think sums it up better than I can with words:

We get this kind of thing far more often than I am comfortable with.  This kid got in-class instruction on how to do research, and yeah, sometimes it doesn't sink in the first time.  I don't mind people getting extra help if they need it.  I may not like that this guy didn't pay attention in class, but I would still attempt to show him how to do research (again), as much as I would love to brush him off like Dewey does here.  But you cannot teach someone who isn't willing to give you their full attention.  That means you need to ignore your cell phone, stop tapping your damn nails, and don't roll your eyes when my first search doesn't work.  Looking for information is an art form, and sometimes you need to do a couple of different search strings (they call it research for a reason).

People who treat me like that last comic are the ones who get the worst possible articles.  Yeah, I'll give you some research, but if you're being abrupt with me, I'll be abrupt with you and polite about it all the time.  I will politely give you a list of resources that are all checked out, or in the library that's 15 minutes away and closes in 5 minutes, or articles that are only in print.  Yes, I will make your ass use the photocopier or the microfilm reader (which I'm sure you'll need instruction on), and I will do it with glee.

Research is a kind of art form and I know things you don't.  You might just learn of a new very useful website or features in a website you didn't know were there (how often have you used Advanced Search on Google?).  So sit your ass down and let me answer your question, no distractions, and I will give you what you want and maybe a little more.

*Used with Permission, (c) Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum.  Unshelved.com.  Seriously, I'm saving the email and everything.

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