Reference Desk Observation – Part 3

Today was a relatively quiet day in the media center. There was a class working on an ongoing project with a teacher on the Mac lab computers, about 15 students who came in during their lunch to read and work on their homework, 2 teachers using the teacher area, and a teacher providing some extra help for a student who had been absent.

During this time, Ms. Smith went about fixing spine labels on some older books while updating her computer system to ensure that all materials were accounted for. The previous librarian and assistant had each cataloged information without checking for duplicates which often leads to confusion when students or teachers look to see if an item is in. As she explained, not only does this make the media center inefficient, but it tests the patrons’ trust in the library. Even though Ms. Smith has been the media center specialist for 5 years, the staff is just this year has been able to thoroughly clean the system

While we were chatting, a 7th grade English teacher came in to talk to Ms. Smith about a project she’d like her students to work on. Ms. Smith conducted this interlude much like a reference interview, sure to understand exactly what the teacher’s intentions were, what she expected of her students, and even suggested other methods to achieve the goal.

In the end, the teacher wanted the students to research local folk tales and write their own, based on events in their own life. Ms. Smith suggested some local history sites, some possible project results that were more interesting than making posers, as well as organizing a Skype session with the local historian who may be able to tell some local folk tales as a treat.

There are definite time constraints on organizing projects with teachers, so after the initial reference interview, the teacher had to go back to class. Ms. Smith said she would begin to put resources and pathfinders together but that she would also email the teacher to further discuss possible plans. Ms. Smith then told me that while it’s taken a while for teachers to collaborate with her, the results have been quite impressive. Ms. Smith is even trying to create a 3-year information literacy program that would work with the curriculum and build each year so that by the time the students graduate to high school, they are well prepared to understand how to conduct good research.

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