Most people know reference and research librarians to be friendly and useful, which, hopefully, we always are. But our actual role still confuses people. What do we do, and why do we do it?
There is no question that one well-known aspect of our work is that we find things. Thomas Mann, who retired this past January from the Library of Congress after 33 years, actually started his adult life as a private detective. This is not surprising. We can be dogged, and fascinated about hidden answers can be.
We can move in and out of most academic disciplines. Some of us have advanced academic degrees, but not all. We understand the differences in discipline areas and therefore what constitutes research and research materials in each. We have a lot of experience in understanding faculty expectations of their students’ research projects and abilities.
We also understand the “rules” of research, but seek ways to teach people how to break those rules when it is appropriate. True research is not just a craft, it is an art. Because of that, there is often no one right way of doing it. We see research questions as puzzles, puzzles that often require not only the finding of facts, but the fitting and refitting of those facts together. Like individual Legos, facts have little meaning on their own. Only when they are fit together do they result in something worth seeing. And then they can be refit, which results in something entirely different.
We are endlessly curious about what we do not know, and have little ego about we do know. Do we like people? Yes, but what we love about people is how they think and learn.
We are indeed research investigators, we are teachers, we are finders. Let us help you.