The reference desk is the front line of the library. The reference desk is where people ask all sorts of questions, tell you all kinds of things, and let you in on little secrets, sometimes. If you are lucky you will gain insight. If you are perceptive you will recognize that those insights can be used to change services or think about services from different perspectives. This will make us better. This will make libraries better.
I had this chance recently when someone came in trying to find some information. I was told by this person that they needed, “x, y, z” and I asked a few reference questions, then found what she was looking for. There was nothing particularly challenging about this request. It wasn’t like an obscure historical government publication, nor was it an original manuscript from Virginia, nor a patent search. This was a run of the mill reference question. The patron/person/customer/user/information needer was looking for a resource, and I found it for them (I’m choosing them as a gender neutral object, even though it’s incorrect).
The response was awesome. I was told, “Wow. I’ve been searching Google for two weeks and I found nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just walk in here and you find it in five minutes. Now I know,” the information needer continued, “I should always start at the library.”
The Library: We’ll Save You Weeks of Google Searching