research consultation

01.19.12 § Leave a comment

A checklist of deliverables for a research consultation, courtesy of Academic Librarian. While this is geared towards consultations in an academic setting in the humanities, I can’t help but compare it to the scope of work expected of me as a news librarian. Here’s a big difference: the need for rapid turnaround means that returning such an extensive dossier could get my ass kicked.

Here are a few more reasons this particular model of research consultation is really useful but needs adaptation to work in a news library:

1. Smaller “customer” rotation.
As an in-house librarian at a smallish news organization, I tend to speak with the same folks over and over again. My relationship with reporters and editors resembles the relationship academic librarians profess to cultivating with faculty and staff more than with students. I trust them to come to me with needs that are closer to fully-formed than a student’s might be. Also, my workplace publications and projects are nearly all K-12 education-related. Acting as a kind of subject librarian affects the scope of my reference work because a certain shared knowledge base (of subjects within education, of publications of record in the field, and of trends within our news coverage) can be assumed.

2. Prioritizing types of requests.
News librarians handle both internal and external requests for information and research. I go to greater lengths to answer any possible questions a co-worker might have–including putting in the effort to anticipate follow-ups–than I would for an outside caller. If a co-worker wanted a particular statistic, I would find the sources and do the math myself. If an outside organization called asking for the same numbers, I might stop way short of that work and simply point them to the raw data. So I’m not exactly teaching anyone to fish, either way.

3. Timeframe
I work for a newspaper. We have a lot of deadlines. I can’t exactly dick around with putting together the perfect reference dossier if the effort would sacrifice turnaround time. The work needs to be excellent, but if it’s not excellent in time, it has to go out anyway. Here’s a bigger-picture connection: preserving my livelihood as a librarian. In order to demonstrate the value of a library / librarians, we need to take a lot of work off reporters’ and editors’ hands, and quickly. This means I get to spend less time on reference consultations in general and reinforces the need to prioritize carefully. It can also be at odds with my impulse to follow every thread.

I’d like to write up a similar checklist for my own use sometime in the next few weeks. I sat in on a project management-related webinar today and need to start incorporating a few of the ideas into my workplace as homework. NERDALERT. So yeah, good opportunity to combine some projects.

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