5 Things Reference Librarians Want You To Know



I’ve been working as a student assistant in the Research Department at Sojourner Truth Library for a year now, and over the course of my time behind the desk, there have been a few things that I want all of you, to know next time you head to the library to do some work.

1) There really, truly, aren’t any dumb questions

I know that’s the mantra we’ve been hearing since Middle School to encourage classroom participation, but in this case, I swear to you it’s true.  I would rather someone ask me where the bathroom is six times in twenty minutes than have no one approach the desk.  Want to know if we have books?  Ask away. You’ll get a smile and an encouraging, helpful response in return.

2) Google is NOT Your Friend

Sure​, it's been there for you virtually your whole life. It’s always had the right answer every time, provided you links in a matter of seconds, and given you a distraction when you needed one. However, when it comes to writing academic papers, Google is a jerk.  It’ll peddle you Wikipedia and blogs that certainly haven’t been peer-reviewed--and your professor will almost never accept them for your thesis.  Luckily, most libraries have tons of peer-reviewed journals and databases at your disposal, for free! Don’t know how to access them? Refer to #1.

(Also, to those who say “Google Scholar is perfectly fine!” I say, “but these are even BETTER sources that aren’t accessible to everyone! Use ‘em!” )


3) We're Not Circulation

You know, the people who check out books and lend you laptops? They're to our left. I only tell you this to save you the trip.


4) It's Not Just You--Call Numbers Are Hard to Read

HQ1155 .P34 2017. Confused? So was I before I got TRAINED in how to read the series of numbers and letters on the spine of a book.  So if you never got training, you're not expected to know what it means.  We at the desk totally understand that, and we'll be happy to show you where to find a book once you have that call number.  (Here's a hint though: just keep alphabetical! That way, you can track it down in the library based on what letters come first. For example, at New Paltz: does it start with A-L? First floor! L-Z? Second floor.)

Still lost? Refer to #5.


5) We Are Here to Help You!

I was not hired to sit behind a desk and people watch, contrary to popular belief.  College is hard, paper writing is hard, and you know what makes it easier? A librarian who specializes in your field who can scour journals and databases to find the perfect material for your project.  That’s what we’re there for--to help you do research! However, we are also here to tell you where to find that book you want, where to find the bathroom, how to print, how to cite a source, to retrieve your course’s textbook, and to refer you to circulation.  There is hardly a problem we, or any of the other library departments, cannot fix. So come swing by!