Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What Do Reference Librarians Do? Program Events

Sunday was a busy day at the reference desk at Thomas Ford. Again, not all the work could be labelled "reference." Looking over my log of activities for the four hour shift, I discovered numerous tasks related to our presenting library events - what we often call "programming."

  • I emailed driving instructions to singer Barbara Silverman for this week's Friday at the Ford concert featuring the Silver Rose Trio (verifying what I had told her on the phone on Saturday).
  • I later downloaded photos sent to us by an attendee of the Michael Perry author talk, which we hosted in February. (I will use these photos on our Thommy Ford Reads blog.)
  • After a call from the library's marketing director, I sent her our budget for newspaper ads for An Evening at the Opera, an annual program that we will present on Sunday, May 1. We hold it in the local First Congregational Church which is big enough to hold the event.
  • For those ads and other publicity, I sent an email request for photos of the new baritone.

Throughout the afternoon, I used our new online calendar to register clients for upcoming programs. Getting people to come is, of course, what programming is all about.

At Thomas Ford, we do not have a separate events manager or programming department. Each of the librarians is responsible for planning several programs. My slate includes our Friday at the Ford concerts and the annual An Evening at the Opera. I also share teaching library technology with Heidi; in the last year we have taught using ebook readers and an introduction to Facebook. I also lead some of our film discussions. Heidi manages our arts and crafts programs, and she arranges the Lyric Opera Lectures. Jamie (who is leaving) chose the films and lead half of the discussions, as well as booking speakers for our Elmer Kennedy History Lectures and literary programs. Heather plans programs for teens, and Anne books our Pauline Kennedy Gardening Lectures. Uma and Dana plan a full schedule of children's programs, including storytimes, author visits, jugglers, animals, and costumed characters.

Programming might not naturally fall to reference librarians in a theoretical way, but it is a good fit in our library. Our programs relate to our collections (which are managed by reference librarians), and we usually find that they are well attended and generate many compliments for the library and staff. Programs are also fun to present. It is like putting on a play in the backyard as a kid. I have met a lot of nice people and heard much great music running our Friday at the Ford concerts.


What I tallied as "reference" on the stats sheet on Sunday was again very easy. Mostly it was identifying items, finding them on the shelves, placing holds on them, or requesting them from other libraries. I requested classical music CDs, some bestsellers, several teen novels, and a thirty year old exercise video still owned by one other library. Two clients needed tax forms that I found online. I had no subject reference questions. The hardest thing I had to do was identify a sequel in a book series.

I continued instructing clients. I helped two people learn to use our downloadable books. I helped another successfully login to an online employment application form. I discussed the difference between various Internet browsers with a third client.

I did a lot of "showing where." I took library users to the new books shelves, the CD cases, the investment newsletters, the phonebooks, and the tax form display. We believe in getting up from the desk.


Here is a list of other tasks from Sunday.

  • Turned on computers.
  • Put today's newspapers at the reference desk.
  • Restock the tax forms display.
  • Checked the library and my own email.
  • Printed cover letters and resumes from job candidates.
  • Reprinted my "Rick's Picks" bookmarks.
  • Restocked the staff picks cart. (Many of the previous days books were gone!)
  • Posted reviews from several staff members on Thommy Ford Reads.
  • Checked the New York Times best seller lists against the catalog. Marked missing titles for ordering.
  • Checked a client's record to see if she had books that were overdue.
  • Rebooted a computer whose mouse had quit.
  • Rebooted a computer whose browser had frozen.
  • Turned off the computers and the photocopier.


I was off Monday for working the weekend, but I did go to the farewell luncheon for Jamie. Thomas Ford has many excellent cooks, and luncheons are one of the unheralded benefits of working here. I will be at the reference desk again on Tuesday. I am hoping for a real meaty reference question. I may have as many as four meetings on Wednesday, so it may be Thursday before I can report further on what reference librarians do in 2011. I will do so if there is something interesting to report. Of course, I find it all interesting.


Anonymous said...

Queen Marie of Romania. She got 40% more territory for her country (i.e. Transylvania). Some say that "she was the only man" at the 1919 conference.

Sarah MN Librarian

ricklibrarian said...

I learn lots of history as a reference librarian. I sometimes end up reading articles or books after clients alert me to some event or person. Thanks, Sarah.

(This comment responds to a subsequent posting on this blog.)