Does Reading Help Reference Librarians in Their Jobs?

The following are answers to the question: has reading helped you in reference? Reference librarians at North American public and academic libraries were asked to answer this question as part of a study of librarian reading habits.


Reading the local newspaper has been helpful. Someone was wondering when the local homecoming parade was and since I had read it in the paper, I was able to give them the answer.

Just a few moments ago a man came in wanting the name and address of the Secretary of State of Florida. I knew her name was Katherine Harris from watching news reports.

Apathy about politics, current events and science is quite striking here.

Reading these things definitely helps one know what is going in the world and provides at least a general level of awareness of current events topics. Even looking for pop music by groups that I don't listen to is helped by reading the people sections of Time and the Tribune. People often ask things from Time magazine that they have seen weeks earlier or a friend told them about. Our town was mentioned in a Time article about students and homework and when the patron had the wrong date, I remembered more correctly the date it actually appeared. Another recent reference question came up when a patron called and said her father had a terminal illness and wanted to die with dignity, a term she had never heard of. I referred her to a recent article in Time on that subject, which gave her a nice overview of the subject.

Reading helps you to identify the issue, ask more intelligent reference interview questions and also locate information more quickly. A few weeks ago the lead story in the Sunday Tribune was about allergies and cleanliness. A week or so later, a patron called in with a request for the article but did not remember where they saw it or the specifics. I did remember and was able to direct them to it immediately.

Reading local papers has allowed me to be aware of events in the area that help me with reference questions, most recently concerning the major road project in the village. As for state, national, and international events, it helps provide a frame of reference. For example, when there was an airplane crash involving the Concorde, I was able to direct a patron to some newspaper sources that I had myself.

Just today I answered a patron's question concerning holiday closures for Veteran's Day based upon an article that appeared in this morning's newspapers.

Information read in Newsweek helped answer a question about the Human Genome Project.

Pro and con editorials on statewide ballot questions have provided information to answer patron questions.

A specific example I can think of is a rating of the graduate and undergraduate programs by US News & World Report every year. I found it a few years ago through browsing and it is a very popular source.

I knew immediately where to get current exchange rates of U.S. dollars for several foreign currencies in newspapers. I was able to refer a person to an article in Discover about cancer research.

I actually clip articles on subjects and keep them in the vertical file. I can't give you a specific example today, but we use the file.

Recently I was asked to find a map of the way the States were leaning in the presidential election. I knew I had seen this in a newsmagazine and was able to find it for the patron.

I don't recall a specific situation, but it is generally just being aware of what's going on in the community, as well as nationally and internationally. It gives you a little edge so that you won't have to tackle a question cold.

Although it is an important reference tool to me, I cannot think of a specific example. We also have EbscoHost, which I have also used with patrons to answer current affairs questions.

A patron wanted to find material written by Malachy McCourt, brother of Frank McCourt, who wrote Angela's Ashes and Tis. By keeping up to date with Publisher's Weekly and newspaper articles, I was able to help.

A concrete example, which has happened to me many times, will be a patron who has read a book review in the Globe and Mail and can't remember anything but subject areas. Someone was doing research on beauty pageants and contestants and I referred them to an article in People. A patron was wondering who was the Albertan accused of bombing oil drill sites and a past reading of Maclean's was remembered.

Most of the time that I have referred to online newspapers or magazines is to help one of our patrons locate something quite current. For example, the online archives of our local newspaper has been used a number of times to locate an obituary. Our provincial library provides us with Infotrac, which I find useful in answering questions on current medical procedures.

Examples would include names in the news, politicians, authors, events, etc. Therefore, I would be aware of the spelling or the name of the country or the event and all its participants.

Many times I have been able to answer patrons' questions about where meetings are or activities, as a result of reading the local paper.

I'm sure it has, but I can't recall anything specific.

For example, just this week a patron came in who had been diagnosed with Diabetes. She was looking for current information. I had read the Sunday paper, which had started a series of articles on Diabetes to be run in three or four parts. I gave her the articles to help her out. I also had been diagnosed with the disease and found the John Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic websites to be very helpful. I directed her to them.

Most of the time I search for articles dealing with certain topics that I know are popular. For instance, if a student needed information on teen pregnancy, I would search both newspapers and magazines to find and print what they needed.

One patron inquired about local election results and since we do not subscribe to any print newspapers, I knew they were available online, so that information was found. I use the online magazine websites in place of the print format because that is all we have available to access.

I had a patron who wanted information on how the Electoral College works in the US election process. I had read cnn.com that morning and they had provided me with excellent links and an explanation about this. Was able to explain to the patron what I had read and then I gave her the relevant links.

While I can't think of a specific instance, I do know that I am regularly able to answer a question based on something I've seen in the NY Times.

Our local newspaper is not indexed so reading the paper or at least skimming the headlines we can give an educated guess of when the article in question occurred in the paper. Government information printed in the paper is taken and placed in a Ready Reference notebook to answer state and local official questions. By just knowing what is in some of the magazines, you can offer those articles as a start in a patron's quest.

Nothing comes to mind, but I am sure it helps in general awareness.

Maine can split electoral vote in several ways. A local paper explained the process.

By keeping up with current events I can more readily recognize questions that patrons may pose about current events. Many times, patrons may not have the correct pronunciation or incorrect leader's names or geographical names. By keeping up with current events, you can more readily recognize the errors and thus help patrons more efficiently. Also, patrons may pose questions about related geographical areas in the news and the newsmagazines help me to keep up with this.

A patron wanted information on a local historic house that is now part of a local college and a day or two earlier there was a brief article on the house including information about an upcoming event/open house for the general public.

A phone call or a patron comes into the library with a question and you can recall where you read about the subject they are inquiring about. Our state has recently changed the law regarding driver licence renewal. Someone was in and asked about the three requirements of identification for renewal. It had been in the Daily Oklahoman and we had clipped the article knowing someone would want to know about the renewal.

A young man was provided a list of witch spells books in print a provided in the local newspaper.

This kind of reading has helped me so many times it's hard to think of a shining example. I consider any reading I do as helpful to my reference work.

Several years ago a lady brought her children into the library. She had just found out from the doctor that she only had a short time to live and she needed material on how to tell her children and help them to understand and be able to cope. Years later, the children came in and told us thanks for the help.

It has helped when a patron says that they saw a certain story on the news and I can recall reading about it in a magazine.

Generally, reading in print and online helps by giving you a jump on what patrons will likely be asking about, generally having the correct spelling for names and places because you've read them, and being familiar with the situations the patrons are asking about. For example, Electoral College questions are lately abundant, people asking about recounting votes. You know just where to go for these reading each day as we do. Giving the public correct titles and authors on books they request since we've read about those on the book pages of the newspapers. We're ahead of the public on these due to the reading.

This is a trifle offbeat, but the Sunday comics once helped me answer a reference question. Someone was looking for a quotation that I couldn't trace through the usual sources because most of the words were too ordinary to index. A few weeks later the quote turned up in the Funky Winkerbean strip, so I sent it to the patron.

During this past election, there was a series of questions relating to the revision of our city charter. The questions were complex and required careful reading and analysis. The issue was very politically charged. Of all the reference librarians, I am the only one who lives in Norwalk and who has been following the issue closely. The day before the election people came to ask for information on the questions. I remembered that the questions had been published in the paper and was able to quickly refer people to the article.

I had a patron request information on the top MBA programs in the United States. I remembered reading Business Week's annual article rating U.S. business schools a couple of months previously and was able to retrieve the article for the patron.

By reading some online papers, I became aware of their page format and that they have article archives. Then, with patrons, I was able to use the archives to pull up articles on local events from past weeks.

Any local or state information from periodicals and newspapers is put into our vertical file if we think our patrons will need access to the information. An example would be pirates who frequented our coastal waters.

There are many, many examples, but I'll give you one I remember. There was a patron whose daughter was doing a research paper on disabilities and she wanted some information on Christopher Reeves' disability. I remembered a cover story on Redbook about him and I pulled the back issue for her. Happens that way quite often. In my opinion, this is much faster than searching databases and provides the personal touch that is lacking in our society. Nothing's wrong with database searching, but when it comes from your own knowledge it is more satisfying somehow.

Being aware of current helps me to know what sources to use when looking for answers to a reference question. It also helps me ask the appropriate questions when conducting the reference interview. Recently, a gentleman wanted to know what political party had Ralph Nadar as their presidential candidate and the address for their headquarters. I was able to track down the information on the Internet since I had read an article several days before about Ralph Nadar's candidacy.

Frequently, a patron will call asking a question about a local event such as where, what time, etc. These are usually best answered by using the local newspaper. And, in the recent election, we were able to use a printed list of polling places in the newspaper to tell many people where they should go to votes. We had clipped a number of articles from the local paper that summarized the local and national candidates' stands on issues. We filed these in a temporary folder for patrons to use in deciding whom to vote for.

On a regular basis, the information I have read concerning times and locations of local events, is useful. Having already read designated Trick or Treat times, who the Indiana Pacers will be playing against and when, where a charity event is taking place, makes it easier to find it in the paper later. Likewise, when students are working on current event questions, it makes answering reference questions easier to be familiar with the names of leaders of our governmental units as well as those in other countries, etc.

For example, a patron called me and asked if I could tell her who Theresa LaPore was. Now normally, this would have taken quite a bit of digging as the patron could give me no hints as to who she was, only that she had heard the name somewhere that day. I wouldn't have been able to answer her question, but just that morning I remembered seeing Ms. LaPore's name in a news article I was skimming on abcnews.com. It took just a few minutes to relocate the article and convey to the patron that Ms. LaPore was the election official in Palm Beach County, FL who had approved the use of the controversial ballot.

I haven't time to read newspapers or newsmagazines on a regular basis. If they are needed, they can be accessed on various databases.

This has happened countless times over the years I have worked on the reference desk. One example: a patron wanted information about starting up a daycare center, but specifically one that would be open during the evening hours. We didn't have much for her in the way of books or articles and an online search didn't turn up much either. I remembered from an article in the daily paper some time back that there was an agency known as Child Care Resource Center at the University of Illinois, which is nearby. We found the number, the patron called the agency and got useful information.

I sincerely believe that reading newspapers daily has helped me on many occasions in answering reference questions on current events. It seems I am constantly pulling out past copies of the newspapers to find an article I remember reading yesterday, last week or even last month.

Question was about how to create a time capsule and I recalled an excellent article in the NY Times all about time capsules, how they should be constructed, what to put in them, etc. Question about a year ago about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and like serendipity, there was an article in the first issue after I had begun to subscribe about that very illness and it was a good article.

A student was doing a report on ice worms in Antarctica and I had seen an article in a magazine and was able to refer the student to that article for the report. A patron was looking for information on that 'new museum that sort of looks like a ship' and I was able to direct them to an article on the new museum in Bilbao that was in Architectural Record. Patron wanted the latest CPI and I got it from the Dept. of Commerce site. Patron needed a tax form for another state and it was found on that state's website. Patron needed address of licensing office for nurses in California and it was found on their webpage. Students and adults correctly use the Gale Group InfoTrac database to answer many questions for class and personal use.

This is silly. Any reference librarian can give you dozens of examples of questions answered from the daily newspaper, from the winning lotto numbers to the status of hot legislation to the weather on a given date. We've had news clippings from our clipping file submitted as evidence in court cases. Newspapers and magazines are vital sources of current information and are used continually. Print or online, they will continue to be useful in answering questions.

We have recently had a number of questions related to elections, the electoral college, state laws related to referendums, etc. In several cases, I had read articles concerning these subjects and was able to find the articles to pass on to patrons to answer questions. One specific problem related to the legal status of game farms in Montana and articles from the Billings Gazette and Montana Stockgrower were helpful in answering questions.

Several times people have inquired where and when specific local events are taking place. Who won elections? Death notices. I have been queried as to the specifics of local crimes. In events such as these, the local papers have provided answers. I get some questions about national or international news mostly for class assignments. These usually revolve around big issues such as cloning, WTO demonstrations, and the death penalty. Longer magazine articles usually satisfy the patron as opposed to daily developments in newspapers.

Several book reviews in the Atlantic have let me answer questions from fellow workers/patrons. Also, I have answered several geography/current events questions from my readings in Economist and National Geographic, etc.

I had a question about the opera Dead Man Walking, including who wrote it, where was it being performed and was there a recording. It would have been difficult to answer the question if I hadn't read about the premiere in San Francisco.

In my opinion, you can't be an effective and efficient reference librarian without being aware of what is going on around you. You need to be aware of major issues in your community and in the outside world. For instance, just today a woman was asking for information about Kennewick Man, but she wasn't sure about the context and didn't know the spelling, but the fact that I had read some articles about it helped me to find enough information both in our magazine index and on Internet.

Many local patrons are concerned with the scores earned by the local schools in the state testing program, Stanford 9. Because I read the local paper, I knew where and when the results were published.

The patron heard that a company was sold, but I remembered the previous day's news story about their purchase of a local competitor.

We seldom have reference questions concerning recent events. However, recently I was able to assist a college student for her minority/majority relations class. She was looking specifically for magazine or newspaper articles regarding various races and how they assimilate into society here. I had read in a past newspaper about the Indian disapproval of Columbus Day in Denver, CO. I was able to direct her to that piece.

Not really. I typically use our online databases of mag/newspaper articles to locate information on a given topic since typically when they come to us they are doing research and not simply looking for the story of the day. Our visitors are either very clued in on current events or simply do not pick our brains for any story.

I have answered numerous questions from obituaries to festival dates, times and location.

Just yesterday, I had half a dozen queries as to polling places. The local paper listed all area county locations.

There are many instances in which something I read in the newspaper has assisted me in the answering of a reference question.

An Iowa court case involving the right of handicapped students to full accommodation in public schools. A patron needed an example of a recent court ruling that affected education, and having just read about this case, I was able to cite the parties and issues involved.

The question was: who are my representatives in Congress? How can I reach them? What are their phone numbers? I found the answer in our local paper.

Patron wanted information on math project for college level course involving a mathematician. I had just read a Smithsonian article about an artist mathematician.

Since I regularly read Newsweek, I knew that they had recently done a cover story about children with autism. A patron was looking for some current articles and this was not yet indexed.

I know that reading print or online sources have helped in the past, in answering reference questions. For example, I had a reference question relating to chelation therapy, something I was not familiar with at the time, but subsequently found a reference to in reading, which I was not really looking for at the time. This gave me a real start in my search for other references.

Essential to recognize breaking news stories and issues, and to get a sense of what people are reading and thinking about, which informs collection development as the handmaid of reference work.

No, only by the process of serendipity does something I may read for personal knowledge have any useful purpose in reference work. Department staff that have worked any amount of time together will get a feeling for individual areas of expertise. Sometimes, tasks may be referred or shared with the person with the most knowledge on a requested topic. I believe that a general knowledge of how to find any information is preferable to filling one's head with stuff that may never be needed.

I remembered that an article appeared in a current Maclean's about communities and was able to direct the patron to the correct issue.

I was asked for information on cloning. I read an article in a newspaper that cited revolutionary discoveries, so was able to find the article for the patron.

I am often the only one who has any idea of what the patron is talking about. Most staff have very poor common knowledge.

Several times a patron has asked about a particular author's book that I have seen reviewed in the New Yorker, or a book that has some current issue that I have seen on a television program.

In the paper, a story ran about a new website sponsored by the state where people can look for local jobs. When someone asked me at the desk about where to look for local jobs on the Internet, I showed the person that site. Also, when people email us needing basic introductory information about a particular disease, I know what websites I can refer them to.

I remembered an article in Time on Buddhism and referred to it when helping a student with a research paper.

General knowledge and knowledge of local events always helps. Brought in the polling places list from home this past Tuesday to help patrons figure out where to vote.

It is like having heard of something so one knows where to begin to look for an answer. Patrons don't always remember things accurately or misunderstand what they heard, so a reference librarian needs to be able to translate or let the patron think one has a crystal ball. It is like the cartoon of the student asking the librarian for the book, A Story of Two Towns. It is a matter of continuing education, being a jack-of-all-trades sort of thing.

Has helped me answer questions about presidential election data, astronomy and marine science, to name a few.

Recently, there was an article in Texas Monthly re the city of Midland. Patrons heard about the article but didn't know the magazine or issue. We had the information ready for them.

By keeping current, I am usually already familiar with topics when patrons ask about them.

Many instances over the years where patrons have come in looking for specific articles or topics and I recall seeing them in the newspaper or in a magazine.

Some patrons have come in to request very new titles. Newspapers and some periodicals give reviews of the most recent so I immediately can know what they are asking about.

Reading such things helps me be generally informed and to know what an articulate patron might be trying to ask. Such reading helps me to know what's available and what's new. Yet, as I said, our reference questions are rarely oriented towards current events. We might get a query about a congressman's address, but rarely about how they are voting on certain issues.

Yes. A school child was doing a report on Uganda, specifically the Ebola virus problem, and I was able to refer to an article.

When a patron has asked me of an upcoming event in the community, about time when, where or why it is occurring, I was able to answer them correctly without having to take the time to do so. By having the newspaper right there handy, the patron could read it themself if they chose to do so.

I have been shocked at the lack of current events questions we get at our main library in Bremerton, WA, where I work. In over a year working full-time here, I don't think I've ever had a current events question! I'm serious.

When it does happen the questions often relate to local events.

I cannot think of a specific example, however, I consider the reading of print and online news and information sources as furthering my knowledge of information and information storage. For example, I read Entertainment Weekly every week, and it often aids in questions concerning current or upcoming film information, popular music news and the like.

Happens often. One example, is when the Yakama Indian tribe banned alcohol on the reservation. Lots of public outcry and people from both sides of the issue came in to check the related law.

New York Times Book Review section gives me a little jump on what patrons will be asking for. Government programs described in the paper, with web addresses or contact information, become resource material for a local Rolodex file. Medicare telephone numbers, housing contacts, New York Childcare Plus link for families in need of health insurances, unclaimed property contacts, local legislatures telephone numbers, web sites, and addresses. Hot items in legislation, like gun control, or the latest on the new birth control day after pill.

I can remember reading reviews of opera and concert performances and then having patrons ask about the performers the next day. Nothing more concrete than that.

The local paper has supplied information on legislation pending before the state General Assembly. Obituaries of famous folks, both local and nation-wide, have been found in the local paper as well as the newsmagazines.

Surprisingly enough, I am most often helped by People magazine. I don't have children and that is often the only exposure that I have to the pop music groups and stars. I can remember a specific question dealing with the henna dye patterns. The name of which escapes me, but that I was able to find from an article that I had read earlier in that magazine. Most news information is readily available through some kind of electronic medium. We have a state-wide network with extended indexing of a newspaper from the largest city in the state and more recently, indexing from our own paper; our network also includes Proquest and Infotrac databases, so we have lots of information here.

Quite often patrons ask for copies of articles from the newspaper, but they do not remember the specific dates or names. If I've seen the article myself, I can usually pinpoint it quickly. We once needed a map of Bosnia when the war was going on. Print sources were not current enough. CNN had shown a graphic on TV that morning so I went to the CNN website and found exactly what the patron needed.

Several patrons are former marines, who lived on base at Camp LeJeune, NC. They heard on the news the concern about the water supply during the late 60s to mid 80s. I was able to locate contact information, specific dates, probable results due to contamination of water, etc. and provide them with this information.

There are many instances, where just being familiar with a subject or topic because of an article has helped me move through a question more quickly. An example is reading a review of a new book about arctic Alaska that related directly to a question about native people in the Arctic.

We really have to read the local newspaper to keep up with local issues here, reference service would be ineffective otherwise. Just last week, I found an article on a local artist for a patron that I remembered reading. Also located a couple articles for a patron on a local vineyard disease problem that I'd read earlier. An interesting take on the artist article is the local paper now can be accessed online but the archive index missed this article.

We have had many questions about local issues. By reading the local newspapers before I come to work, I am easily able to pinpoint the answers to these questions.

Some specific questions that I can think of include: What is RU 486? Read about this in the newspapers and magazines. Referred the patron to an online magazine index. Which of Eleanor Roosevelt's children are still alive? I read in the newspaper that her son was deceased. I checked the World Book Encyclopaedia and confirmed that all her children are now deceased. When is the next city council meeting? When will the agenda be out? I can keep up with local events by reading the local paper.

Probably every day I have a question like that, where it was useful that I was familiar with the issue.

Reading print newspapers and magazines is much more satisfying. I should read more of them. I believe reading newspapers has helped me more often to answer a reference question than a magazine. Many of the questions I get are about authors, what else have they written, when is their next book coming out, etc.

A question concerning a new treatment for Alzheimer's was asked a day or so after I had read about the treatment in the San Francisco Chronicle. I had also heard a similar report on NPR Morning Edition concerning new discoveries in directing the patron to the specific article in print and other online information.

We frequently refer to the village paper to assist us in answering reference questions of local relevance (when is the pumpkin display, etc.).

Several months ago a gentleman asked for information about five-year high schools. I had just read an article in the NYT about some of these being tried in several US locations and was able to find it for him. A couple of weeks ago I was asked about a treatment for liver disease and recently read something about it in a local paper. It was enough to supply me with the name of a drug so I could find more about it in other sources.

Reading the local paper has helped answer questions such as trick-or-treating times, and when local events are happening. Sometimes patrons will ask about a specific article and just being familiar with the layout of the paper helps. For example, regional information is usually in the B section of the newspaper and entertainment information is in a special Thursday section.

A student was doing a report on home schooling, and I recalled that a few months ago Newsweek had a cover story on homeschooling that clearly explained the topic, provided lots of statistics, etc. The student was very happy to get the article. Another patron was interested in statistics on how many people are not having their children vaccinated and there was a US News and World Report article which I remembered discussed that topic. Reading Metropolitan Home has also helped me several times when patrons have design-related questions.

I recently read an article in my alumni magazine that helped me provide exceptional but obscure information to a patron with severe food allergies. A newspaper with annotated web sites of interest to actors looking for work in the US was helpful to the son in Sweden of a Swedish doctor who visits our library. The Science Times and Circuits sections of the NY Times have on numerous occasions helped me to provide either reference or reader's advisory service to patrons. We keep a set of ready reference binders with articles for literary study groups on the subject of author biography and personal information on their styles and approaches.

There are local questions such as where do I vote? I remember when it was in the paper and get the paper out for the patron. Also, where and when is tax help being given? Or questions about the time or place of a specific event.

In general, I find it very helpful to be aware of issues and people and places in the news so that when a person comes in asking a question based on partially correct information, I know what they are talking about. That can save so much time.

By reading mainstream material, I can answer many questions and offer good reader's advisory.

It is hard for me to be specific but it is the general feeling I have for current issues that helps me to answer many questions.

Reading newsletters which are not indexed such as Kiplinger and organization newsletters such as Family Almanac for homeschool parents, I can provide information not readily available in other sources for questions.

We rarely get current events questions. We look at the web sites and papers anyway, just in case.

I live in Florida, so hurricanes are always popular reference questions. The Orlando Sentinel has all the major links and satellite imaging. Entertainment Weekly has helped me answer numerous questions. Everything from Mystikal's music label to the status of the Harry Potter movie. One concrete example: on Who Wants to be a Millionaire they apparently had a question about Bill Clinton doing laundry in a comedy film for the press. I was able to answer the question immediately because I had about it in a magazine.

Most prominent recent example is awareness of local election issues and candidates and access to articles from local papers we'd maintained in a current reference folder. One specific question pertained to the eligibility of someone running for a local office to continue serving in another local elective office in another capacity.

Yes, being informed about local and national issues helps my work.

When the transcripts came out on President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinski, I found out on a website that the transcript could be downloaded. I printed the transcript off and had it at the desk for people who might not want to use the computers to look at it. A woman wanted an article out of a magazine we didn't have and I was able to get online and get a copy of the article for her from the online magazine.

Keeping up with the news is helpful in understanding patron's questions when they are posed in a vague manner. It also helps in narrowing down a periodical search to a particular time period for a patron when asked about particular event.

A recent example includes a featured Sunday paper article regarding how the public can locate records of complaints against local physicians using various medical and county records websites. I bookmarked these websites as I anticipated some questions which I did receive.

Most of my reference questions from the newspaper involve the Sunday book review section.

I get general knowledge of current events and trends, especially literary, political and environmental.

I knew Marketplace did an extensive look at organic farming and pesticide issues and related that to a customer. I've used the archives to help customers as well. The CBC's coverage of Sci/Tech was also recently helpful in answering a reference question. I could go on and on.

Someone wanted to know about Mrs. Stockwell Day's new haircut, and I found out that she got her hair cut at the same place as Mila Mulroney. I found this out through the newspaper.

Especially helpful in finding more for customers with health and science questions since it is one of my more focused interests and the basis of my education. Help for adults with health questions by knowing the correct terminology and the newest developments from current sources and can direct them to the most relevant information.

This happens constantly. Today, someone asked about a locally developed computer animation program that had been in the Vancouver news a few years ago for being connected to a New York dance company. I remembered this from a story in one of the local Burnaby newspapers and found it in our MAD index. But we're asked everyday for information that has appeared in recent print news almost as often as for information that has been broadcast on TV or radio.

The only one that comes to mind is one a patron was asking about a new author and her latest book. I had just read the interview in Chatelaine magazine and was able to get the title and author from there and bring the book in for our customer.

Every day. Too numerous to tabulate.

Many questions about local events are almost always answered by consulting a local newspaper.

Many questions concerning state and national issues.

We use the local paper to help patrons with questions like, where can I get a flu shot? Where is the job fair? We use the paper to answer many questions about church bazaars, movies, and obituaries.

Two weeks ago a patron needed help finding a phone number of a writer's criticism organization listed in the Writer's Digest which he did not have. I was able to get the issue of Writer's Digest he once found it in and find the listing in question and read it to him over the phone.

I had an experience where someone wanted to make a chocolate turkey for her centerpiece for Thanksgiving and I had remembered seeing the instructions in the November issue of Martha Stewart's Living.

A patron wanted the book that a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire had written. I had read in People the week before about how the book became a bestseller after he appeared on the show, so I got the magazine and found the book title that way. There are lots of times when a patron mentions a news item and I've read about it in the paper or in Newsweek and can have a conversation with them about it, but not specifically to answer a reference question.

I was asked who the new Bengels coach was and remembered that from reading the Sunday paper the day before.

The local paper had a feature on thyroid disease, which we filed since we get many health-related questions.

I get many queries about current books, which I have encountered in reading reviews.

The patron wanted information on Bluetooth technology. I had downloaded a web article on this topic, and so I gave the information to the patron and they purchased Ericsson stock based on my research.

Too many examples to list. Since instituting our ask-a-librarian page, I got a request for information on a convicted murderer on Florida's death row. I emailed her some articles from our electronic newspapers backlist. She later confided that she needed the information to discourage a friend interested in marrying the convict.

Keeping aware of current events and a variety of subjects always helps patrons. A patron gave a vague description of a painting but I was able to identify the artist and the painting immediately and provide additional information from the reference section.

Many times my reading has helped me to answer questions about medicine, science and technology.

Recently, Nevada voted to keep fluoride in our water. Many of my patrons voted no because it is a toxin.

Because I read and index the local paper, I use it frequently to answer questions about local crimes, movie times, weather, obituaries, local government issues, and human interest features.

By being aware of the scope of reporting in print or online newspapers and magazines I can more effectively offer appropriate resources to patrons. I'm also more familiar with the parameters of the discussion, lexicon, etc. I was able to refer a patron researching a paper on censorship to a local incident, which illustrated the issues.

Usually local events, such as when/where is a local event. I found the answer in local paper.

Had a question yesterday about Dick and Jane readers, and I knew there was a recently published book with excerpts which was just what my patron wanted because I had read about it in a news magazine some time back.

Keeping up is more important for us on a local basis. I'll remember reading about the new trail, which just opened around town, and I'll go to the newspaper. Problem is that the local newspapers are not indexed and we have trouble going back. National or international issues rarely arise.

I know it has helped with several questions, but I can't think of a specific example right now.

Unfortunately, the clearest example I can remember is reading in Sporting News about Todd Helton's quest to hit .400, and then being asked specific questions about the last baseball player to hit .400. 1 printed out the on-line version for our patron.

Someone asked for a copy of the eulogy for Trudeau. I had read it in a newspaper and was able to find a copy for the patron.

I used an on-line magazine (through Electric Library) to answer a question on changes to the Young Offenders Act.

One particular problem occurred when a patron was looking for information on how to properly use a rock polishing unit that she had been given. I was able to find the information she needed because I had read an article dealing with this problem earlier in the month.

I can't think of any specific question. I think I remember someone asking about information on Attention Deficit Disorder, and I had just read an article in one of the newsmagazines. Sorry I can't be more specific.

Almost every week there is question that requires current knowledge to answer. Customers come with half remembered facts, or "I saw it in a newspaper" or "who is the new minister of..."

Reading the weekend book review section from either the Globe and Mail or Toronto Star is most helpful. Many of our library patrons are commuters, i.e. Oakville - downtown Toronto, and they like to pick-up a good "read". It helps to know what title and author they are inquiring about when working the information desk.

I constantly use print articles - but I usually find them from indexes or from tables of contents that I have photocopied and put in a subject file, or from clippings in a subject file. I also use magazines online, but mainly through Electric Library, which our system subscribes to. But skimming the newspapers and magazines often makes me familiar with "new" people, events, research, etc. that helps me with reference questions. One instance: recently I read in Newsweek about the approval for use in the U.S. of the abortion pill RU486. I was able to use the article for a reference question on the medical and ethical aspects of abortion.

The first that comes to mind is this past week patrons have had requests about voting. Where they vote and about sample ballots. Since I had read some of this information in the local paper I knew where to direct them.

While I can think of no specific example, being knowledgeable on current events has helped me direct patrons towards needed materials.

I find out about new books patrons may be asking about from newspaper stories; sometimes about government reports or notable web sites mentioned in newspaper articles. I also have used newspapers as sources of events information that patrons ask about.

Current events questions are easier to answer, problems overseas, and new books promoted by their authors.

Good Websites - found in papers - referred patrons to location of a snowboard park, I had found remembered reading in local paper. Patron wanted information on Nordstrom's - remembered recent article in the WSJ and could refer him. Patron wanted information on where to get flu shots - the local paper had just had an article the day before and we were able to provide them with the information they needed.

I keep anything about Hemlock History that I find in the newspaper. Recently, a patron asked for an article that had been in the Saginaw News about two years ago, it was called Urban Legends. I felt great when I could go right to the article and she could make a copy.

In the past two weeks I have been asked frequently about how the president has been elected and what an electoral college is. Because I have kept updated on the presidential election and how it is proceeding, I am able to define Electoral College and how a president is elected in such a way that illuminates the current election situation.

Last Friday I helped a young student find biographical information on the golfer Mike Weir. I was able to show the student an article on him in the Detroit News from the weekend before. Mike Weir had won a golf tournament that weekend beating Tiger Woods. This gave the student current information on his subject.

Lately, the questions have been about the curiously structured Electoral College. Time magazine did a nice piece on the history and debate that has been helpful to folks who just want the basic facts and not a dissertation.

Local zoning issues. A patron was looking for past information about a zoning issue. Local newspapers assisted in finding the answer.

A patron was asking for Brad Meltzer's new novel First Counsel but could not remember the title or author. After giving a brief plot summary I recalled reading a review for the title in a local paper and was able to put a hold on the title for the patron since it was on order already. This is a pretty typical example of how keeping up with newspapers and /or magazines can aid in reference service.

Oddly enough, it is the woman's magazines that help me answer some of my reference questions. I get quite a few what I would call "domestic" queries. I recall one time having read an article in Parents magazine that helped me to answer a question on costumes for Halloween. Another time I had read an article on cloning and 2 or 3 months later I was able to direct a patron to the cover story in Time.

The national presidential election, I have had to explain how the Electoral College works. I had read explanations in both newspapers and magazines.

In one case, I found and article and copied parts of it to help a student during Black History Week. The article in an on-line newspaper had some biographical material on prominent African-American personalities. Recently, I found some statistics on county poverty levels in an area newspaper. That information was helpful to a patron writing a grant.

Our patrons do not really ask a lot of reference questions based on current events from a newspaper-related perspective. Off the top of my head I can't really think of a question immediately. We do however receive many readers' advisory questions pertaining to book reviews and my reading the paper has assisted me from that perspective.

Patron wanted an update on the presidential race. I went into USA Today.

At this moment, I can't think of a specific example of a reference question that I answered due to my recollection of something in the newspaper. However, many times I know that I have said to a customer- 'I just saw something about that in the paper.' The way that it helps is in the speed of relating to the context of the question. I think any of the other librarians would find as good or complete an answer, but it may take them just a little longer to get to it if they are not as familiar with the context.

I've had questions regarding a bridge that is being rebuilt in a neighboring county and there has been a lot in the newspaper about it.

Question was where someone would vote during our last election. The local newspaper listed voting places by precinct. After ascertaining the patron's precinct number, I was able to tell him where he would vote.

The North Carolina newspaper offered some information on Internet sites for African American history month that came in useful fielding questions from kids doing their projects.

Since I don't read a lot of newspapers or magazines, this doesn't apply a lot of the time, but I do find what reading I do will provide me with terms, names that can be helpful to assist patrons in searching more specifically. I'm probably trying to say that it helps focus the search.

The only time reading local newspapers is helpful is for obituaries, sports questions, and craft shows in the area.

By reading astronomy magazine I have been able to identify where the constellations are at certain times of the year.

Students need to do current events and many times have no clue as to what is going on. Knowing what's in the news, I can direct them a bit. Sometimes adults come looking for information on a topic that was in the news but have no clue as to when or need something on a social issue or news item and remembering what was in the paper is very helpful.

No, there probably has been, but the biggest help has not been the newspaper, but just shopping and eating out in the community around the library. Most of the librarians live outside the area, so I am pretty much the authority on Escondido although I've only lived here four years. Questions include: Where's the closest post office? Where can I pay my phone bill in person? How do I get to this doctor's office on Date and Ohio, I've never heard of those streets?

A controversial topic lately has been homeless shelters for families in Burlingame. A patron had a question about where the next meeting was going to be and I was able to answer that from an article I had read in the local paper.

This happens regularly. As for specifics, I can't remember a specific question. But recently someone asked about an article they saw recently in the local newspaper but couldn't remember when it had appeared. I remembered that it was within the past few days and where in the paper it had appeared so was able to track it down fairly readily. People often want information on very current events, which are easy to track down in the paper if I am familiar with the contents.

One of our patrons was doing a research on cancer among celebrities, she even wrote to the American Cancer Society. We found some information, of all places, in People Weekly: an article about celebrities who had cancer and survived.

Today that is an easy question to answer. Tuesday's election is a big topic of discussion. I have been asked questions on the number of votes in the Electoral College in different states, who won a particular seat and by what percentage, etc. Another example is during income tax time. People have called requesting information or clarification on new laws or bills that affect their taxes. As a general rule I don't receive many reference questions that can be answered by what is found in the newspaper. Consumer Report and Consumer Digest are two magazines that are helpful in answering questions specifically asked on subjects they cover. Same is true of Birds & Blooms when a person wanted to know the size of the hole in a birdhouse for martins." I have even found recipes for people in the Quick Cooking Magazine. Young mothers have requested patterns for Halloween costumes which I could point them to because I had read the Oct issue of Parents Magazine and Family Fun magazine.

School children need to know what paper or magazines have the articles they need to do research for school papers. Patrons that are looking for activities or special events will often call with the query.

I was able to give a patron information about a local candidate for mayor.

I read in the very local paper that there was going to be an event at a local school. The day of the event, someone called us and asked if this event was taking place. If I hadn't read that paper, I would not have heard about it.

Yes, USA Today on-line, other current events sites and news on search engines.

I have answered many questions: proposed dredging of the Hudson River, local candidates for election results, diseases, genetically altered foods, movie reviews, plastics processing and science-related topics.

I can cite the Consumer Reports article and the results of the tests.

Generally, the local newspaper is used to answer questions relating to local businesses and events. Indexing of items of interest is kept in a notebook.

I can say unequivocally that my reading of print materials aids me when current events are at the root of a patron's question. But there are not too many reference questions, more general types: best-sellers, researching genealogy, local history, price of cars, civil service question books, school assignments.

Yes, when asked who the new officers were for the three senior clubs in town, I could answer the question because I had read it in the town weekly newspaper. When asked when soccer registration was going to be held and where, I could answer that too.

A patron wanted to know where Hilary Clinton was born. I had just read in USA Today that she was born in Illinois. So, I was able to go directly to the source.

We had a senior high school student who was doing his research paper on submarines and I remembered the articles that were in the paper and newsmagazines.

I'm sorry I can't give a concrete example but can only generally say that it's extremely helpful anyway one can keep up on information. Patrons are often unsure of what they are looking for and staff can help identify and locate the information.

Reading newspapers is not really a help.

Having read the local paper often prompts a staff member's memory about an announced event or activity when they are asked. I have pointed library users to recent articles in the Globe that supplement information we have found, and have several times directed users to NY Times articles.

Questions involving recent news items are rare.

I really don't use online newspapers or magazines to help answer reference questions.

Frequently a question causes me to remember that I have read an article or two on the subject, not always recently. I then turn to our online periodical index to help me locate the specific article or articles. If the question concerns an event or discovery that is very current, periodicals may be the only source of printed information. A recent question involved the discovery that blueberries aid memory. I recalled an article in Science News. When I searched the index, I found it and two others.

Daily reading certainly helps with spelling! Patrons want information about celebrities, athletes, music groups, political candidates. Catalog or periodical database searching is much easier! Also, just the awareness factor is improved: had a question about George W. Bush's campaign schedule recently, and I knew he would be in Bucks and Chester counties during a certain week. Had a question today from a patron who is planning a trip to London and is concerned about the recent flooding problems. I was able to connect her with the Times of London through our library system home page so she could keep up to date.

As I mentioned before, I have a very regular patron who has a hobby of collecting famous people's obituaries. By reading People magazine and watching Entertainment Tonight (a television show) this helps me to be aware of who has recently died.

Reading newspapers keeps my up-to-date with what is going on, which is a must for reference work. It helps me to make connections I otherwise would not have made if I hadn't read the current events. Sometimes my reading the papers enables me to fulfil a request for retrospective information. For instance, a lot of the local community information is very valuable, as patrons call on the telephone and remember seeing something in the paper but don't have a citation. I usually remember what I've read and can help answer the patron's question. Someone came in and asked about the People magazine issue that pertained to Michael J. Fox's illness.

I cannot provide any concrete examples, but just having an awareness of items such as the New York Times Best Seller List has helped me with collection development and reader's advisory.

I think keeping current with rock stars and movie stars and what's on TV helps with reference questions for teenagers. My joke is that People magazine would be a great source for librarians to read religiously. As to concrete examples, I would say it's of the "I read this article a couple of weeks ago" variety that reading newspapers helps, because if you read the same article then you are better able to help the person. It also helps to read the book reviews in the local paper because patrons always see books there they are interested in.

Often times my reading helps me with the reference question for patrons, including children.

Nothing concrete. Useful for background information on a major news story, i.e. Bosnia maps. I find a lot of my health and science information for local groups in the Boston paper. They will sometimes cover local town stories vis--vis educational and transportation issues.

I had someone in the library just the other day seeking information on David McCullough's (Truman) next book. The patron thought it might be on John Adams and Thomas Jefferson but we were unable to find any info in the professional journals for reviews, books in print or forthcoming books in print, or on the web at Amazon.com for example. Then the following Sunday I was reading the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine and lo and behold was a story on David McCullough and his forthcoming book on John Adams. The book is due out in the spring of 2001. Both the patron and I were thrilled to have the answer right there in front of us so quickly in the end.

Reading the Globe book section has helped many times when a patron cannot remember a title/author and I will have seen it in the newspaper.

I recently had a query about a local company that had just announced a big gain and I just read it in the newspaper and was able to find the name of the company for the patron.

I have had success helping several students with projects on the presidential elections by staying on top of which magazine and news sites had stronger pieces. Locating information on the vice presidential candidates and their respective positions on the issues. I was able to access the newspaper archives of the Hartford Connecticut newspaper The Hartford Courant and found great articles on Lieberman that were more specific than any other of the national magazines was. Finding the state newspaper worked better than the national.

It happens every time I work reference.

Last week I had a reference question regarding the presidential election. The question, "What is the state by state prediction for the U.S. President?" The best way to answer that question was through the most recent newspapers. I found the answer in the Boston Globe and went online to the local newspaper for the same results.

Yes, for local issues especially. By reading newspapers I often find that I have background information on an issue, or a fuller knowledge of book titles and authors.

A parent was looking for information on how to rid her child of lice and I remembered reading a detailed article about that topic in the newspaper the week before. We found the article and made a copy for her.

I recently helped a patron locate information in our local newspaper about the filming of The Straight Story which occurred in our county about two years ago. Because I could remember approx. what appeared in the paper, it made it easier to locate. There are often other instances when people are looking for information about a current event and it certainly helps when I have seen an article in the paper which helps me be informed about the incident or issue.

The State of Iowa uses First Search and Electric Library and both of these have been useful in assisting with reference questions. I use them so frequently that I don't know of any special mentionable question at this time.

A local person questioned a story about a hijacking. She did not know the location or many details of the story. It was difficult to key in a phrase to get the precise by-line. Because I had read the story recently I was able to locate the material and answer her question.

Reference questions often arise concerning current events - what was the price of a certain stock on Monday, etc.

How can it not help? There are issues every day ranging from politics to books to science that come up. A recent example was a patron looking for information on tagging butterflies and an article had been in the paper that morning. Or the list of what time kids would trick or treat on Halloween in various cities in the area. Or the web site of where to find information on how members of the Iowa Bar voted on local judges. I could go on and on.

Halloween brought questions about RI's vampire history. A feature in a recent Sunday supplement provided stories on this topic and a list of authors whose work on the subject is in our local history collection. As for breaking news, stories of celebrity deaths for example may lead to an interest in their writings or biographies. War news such as the recent developments in the Middle East have people interested in the history of the conflict.

Yes, the weekend that JFK, Jr. and his family were missing I used online news services to find the most current information about the search for library customers. The day of Princess Diana's death I used online news services to get the most current information about the accident, the funeral plans, etc. for library customers.

Was able to locate information on local railroad issue because I had kept up with the topic in the local media.

When there are local issues in the local paper, it prompts us to realize we will get asked questions, such as those relating to town ordinances, or teacher's salaries, etc. We have these statistics at the reference desk.

I can't quote a specific example off the top of my head. Many of the magazines that I read contain book reviews and let me know what is hot. This helps me in collection development. Each of us at the branch has his/her own area of expertise. If someone wants to know a political science or financial type question, we refer them to Lyle. If anyone wants to know a pop culture type question, they are referred to me.

At least once a week we have kids being asked homework directly derived from a teacher having just seen an article in a newly published magazine. Like last week when an entire 6th grade class had to do a 3-d project on volcanoes, because the science teacher had seen that the current issue of National Geographic had a nifty article on South Pacific volcanoes. Magazines that usually kick the teachers' salivating mechanism are the weekly newsmagazines, National Geographic, Reader's Digest, People and Biography. I wish they'd pay more attention to Scientific American (especially the short pieces), Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, and Civilization magazines instead of the nearly totally pop-culture focus they seem to go for lately. But that's me, not them.

This happens all the time with local issues and with broader current events. Assignments from students are some concrete examples: the US presidential elections are a recent instance. But just as knowledge of the reference collection is essential for quick and informed responses from reference librarians, familiarity with current events keeps staff culturally literate and credible in dealings with public.

Depending on the subject and the access to indexes with increasing full text, news papers and magazines are the source of MOST of the answers to information requests. Established print references are valuable for timeless and historical subjects and texts, but as a direct source or as a map to investigating other sources, they are primo. If I were not a regular reader and skimmer, my reaction time would not be adequate to respond to the fast-food needs of today's library users. Often, I can remember a specific article in the NY Times or in Architectural Digest or the Smithsonian or American History. Thanks to indexes and full-test databases available even to rural libraries these days, I can put my "hands" on them almost immediately. I'm really glad you are zeroing in on this business of understanding the public context enough to be able to listen and understand readily. The best children and Young Adult librarians have always been good at this kind of service-oriented listening. My one weakness has always been a total disinterest in commercial television. But my interest in the Web and print materials has been very strong and has somewhat overcome the TV lack. ALL my reading and skimming, especially here at the community college, which is much like a public library in some of its use, has prepared me to be a better listener. Perhaps, though, the best skill I and reference librarians tend to have is the skill of being able to discover through gentle dialogue WHAT IT IS that the user really wants to find. No doubt, understanding the language of public interests helps. My NYTs reading helps me a great deal in an academic library service setting. I find I understand the context of 90% of the questions that come to me. Where I have to dialog more is in the popular culture that exists in commercial TV.

I had a patron asking for information about ADHD and was able to instantly pull a periodical from the rack because I had noted the article when I received a news magazine.

I cannot be specific. Sometimes what I read provides background information about the subject; sometimes I can refer a patron to a specific newspaper or magazine article because I read that article also, sometimes I can tell where a patron is coming from because I am aware of what is happening in that area.

Helps a lot with local information. For example, did you read about that business they're trying to open, etc? Helps with keeping up with constantly changing international countries, e.g. Yugoslavia etc. Keep up with latest political polls and what politicians have to say on issues, etc.

I can't be very specific. I have a very good memory for local news and have often been able to provide the information needed to look it up in an index or online.

By reading from these magazines I have been able to keep current with books that patrons have would want to read and to make sure we ordered these books. I am also better prepared to help school children with their assignments and to help the general public who hears or reads about something new and wants to find more information about that topic.

No examples come to mind but having a broad range of reading tastes gives me a general familiarity with most topical fields so even if I am not an expert in the field of inquiry that a patron brings up, I usually know what topical terms, areas and resources to use to find their information. In other words I know what they want and how and where to look for it. I use magazines, newspapers and online news-sites to mainly be aware something exists or has happened so I won't be caught off-guard when asked about them.

A question on the Napster debates - from beginning of the debate to the end - research paper. By reading Time and Newsweek, I knew an estimated date range to start looking for additional information in other materials.

Recently, we had a question about the presidential candidates and their platforms. New York Times had overviews of all of the presidential candidates that the person was able to use.

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