Misconceptions about libraries may prevent patrons from stating real information needs.
Lack of Understanding Limits Questions
Successful reference work requires finding the real information need of an individual although it's often not the first question expressed. Patrons may ask for what they think the library has rather than what they really need, or they ask for something easy because they "don't want to bother you."
Patrons may also believe that "what you see is what you get" and be unaware of non-book sources or information services such as Interlibrary Loan.
Patrons Want to Help
Patrons are trying to be helpful and they tend to ask questions in a way they think will help you answer them easily. If they can get "the book" on the subject, they will look it up themselves. This leads to a very common phenomenon -- questions that are too broadly stated. Patrons don't realize that information on any one subject can be found in many different forms (books, web sites, magazines, videos, microform) and in many different locations in the library.
Although patrons often ask you for the "book on" something, if you knew the specific question, it might be answered by another source -- the World Almanac or a magazine for example.
Libraries can be confusing places!
Patrons may also be confused by the arrangement of the library, reflecting the many different forms of materials. For example, they may not understand the reasons behind separating fiction and non-fiction, setting apart audiovisuals from other materials, or having indexes that only point to other materials.
Patrons may be unaware of special collections or local materials such as pamphlet and map files that aren't as obviously displayed as books on the shelves, and only ask for what they can see is available.
Libraries can be virtually confusing places!
Patrons may have several misconceptions about virtual reference services, too! They may be confused by the layout of the library web site, unsure of what virtual reference really is, unaware that services are offered, or mistrustful of confidentiality issues when using remote reference services. Patrons may also be unwilling to admit needing a little help using the remote technology or in locating quality Web information sites!
Major Point: Patrons don't realize how libraries are organized and shouldn't have to when asking questions!
Changing libraries and user perceptions: How do libraries use Library 2.0?
"Library 2.0 is all about library users - keeping those we have while actively seeking those
who do not currently use our services. It's about embracing those ideas and technologies that can assist libraries in
delivering services to these groups, and it's about participation - involving users in service creation and
evaluation." Library 2.0 Reading List, created by Jenny Levine and
Michael Stephens for the Library 2.0 course for ALA with the Otter Group.
Some patrons don't know what's available and don't want to "bother you" by asking!
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