Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sometimes I feel like an Evangelist

It was noon. The networked printers weren't functioning. I had just finished a semi-successful tandem reference search with two students on the same topic and was thinking of a short lunch break when I heard:
St.: Do you have time to help me?"
Me: Sure. What do you need?
St: I've been looking all morning for information about cannibalism among Indians. My professor (gives name) was also helping, but couldn't find anything.
Me: (Somehow, lunch doesn't seem appealing anymore.) I mention several subject specific references on native Americans.
St: We've already looked there.
Me: Well...There is another place to look since cannibalism is usually related to religious rites of respect for the dead.

I take him to Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion and pull out the appropriate volume. Several pages on Cannibalism appear.
Me: "You know. If you really want the classic encyclopedic article in religion you'll look at Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. "
I pull it out adding that he would want a magnifying glass to read it since the print is so tiny. The student passes.
St. "Can I check this (Eliade's volume)out?"
Me: "No. This is a reference copy. You can photocopy it."
I show him the bibliography in the article which cites books and journal articleshe could find. And from my very speedy read, I mention that most of the material discusses New Guinea.
Me: " You mentioned you couldn't find anything in JSTOR. Let's look and see if any of these journals are in full text there."

We go back to the computers and find one of the articles. I also take him to FirstSearch array of databases and show him a different way of searching for the topic.
Student: You mean an asterisk will help me search for several forms of "cannibalism" at once?

Me: Yes, And you can take this same search strategy and apply it to many databases at once.

I demonstrate and search. We spend about 5 minutes marking additional articles for possible use.
The printers are still down, except for one printer. This is problematic because at least one other student is on JSTOR and is printing 20-30 page articles on the only printer available.
So we try e-mailing some of the information. I try printing some information just for ready use as he is heading for a class.
I show him links to creating personal accounts with databases, but he isn't interested.

St: The booklist didn't print.
Me: Oops. I must have sent it to the wrong printer. Too bad we didn't have it on an account.
St: That's OK. I have enough.
Me: Before you go, let's print the search history so you can show your professor and so you can come back and continue searching when the printers are working again.
St: Thanks.
Me: Guess, I'll go to lunch now
Student laughs and heads back into the study area
About 2 minutes after he leaves, the printers come back and spew out the list. I look for him but all I find is the volume from Eliade's work on the table.

Spooky, huh? But that's not the end of the story.

Later that afternoon, he returns to my desk with volume in hand
Me: Guess what! Here's your list.
St.: Thanks. Can you show me how to cite this article?
I pull up our Citation software, retrieve the appropriate template, enter the information, and print it for him.
The student's jaw drops.
St.: Can I do that for all my articles?
Me. I explain how he can access the software and he leaves.

Sometimes I don't preach or lecture so much on the "good news" of information as provide demonstrations which meet a need.

And sometimes it's all about relationships
--as one student said over the phone--"I'm going to be your new best friend!"

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