Tuesday, February 08, 2005

It Is Our Pleasure To Serve You

Puritanical approach: do your own work ethos. Taylor’s work takes place at the reference desk. Reference today is in cyberspace, sometimes. This is a theoretical model for reference librarians. Based upon observations of people. Far from the single event model. Terrible illustrations. Reference librarians are involved in negotiating information. communication. Although there is a structure to the interview, there are also compromises due to language and communication, which at best, is a miracle. If I ask,
where is the water fountain, I may get a concrete answer, but if I ask what were the causes of the Civil War, a reference librarian may need to know at what level I need info and for what purposes. Taylor has five filters (see p 128) which describe an information seeker and the stages through which a question passes. these are not absolute or fixed (p 85). These filters help the librarian find the answer that is appropriate to the task of the info seeker. The only problem is that all of these filters will not help if the info seeker can not get past the first stage, determining a subject. Actually, one can browse for info and find it. when one needs info, the question must fall into a category for someone else to find it in the system. Those categories are limited by the controlled vocabulary of a system OPAC or the limitations of either the info seeker or intermediary in narrowing. Taylor’s analysis is early (1968) in the science of information seeking, but is built upon by others, such as Nick Belkin. His focus on background information of the user is not the most useful information in 2004. Also, it assumes that librarians are apt at understanding human behavior, when some librarians are completely clueless as to the motivations and behavior of a user. Especially if they have had no socialization at an early age. Librarians who have not had much human interaction outside of their careers bring little to the negotiating table because they do not understand human behavior. Those who have studied psychology may be able to benefit from the discipline.
In Taylor’s system, the seeker and librarian are in a dynamic act of communication, but it can be studied and made more effective from an LIS standpoint. Taylor stresses that more interaction is needed between the librarian and the info seeker. Librarians should not just jump to an answer, but must first find the right question. One of the most rushed info sessions is the “Ask a Librarian” type session or any one of its many forms. Without in-person clues, most librarians will simply jump to a conclusion and refer the patron to a couple of web pages. Bah, humbug!!!
Questions are different from commands. Commands can only happen in later stages of info seeking.

Taylor, R.S. (1968) Question-Negotiation and Information Seeking in Libraries. College and Research Libraries, 28, 178-194. American Library Association (ALA).

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