Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I AM THE ALL-EXPERT! (Not really)

I know and appreciate that all librarians are assumed to know all things, but I think it's funny how apparently randomly people sometimes select my library (and presumably yours as well) as a resource for their particular question.

For example, I work at a small academic medical library associated with a specific school, in Massachusetts. I'm really not sure why someone with no apparent connection to the school picked us as the lucky recipient of a general question on "is there a [specific health-related thing] in Massachusetts?"

I mean, I can look it up, but we don't speak for Massachusetts where I work, nor are we really experts on state policy. Maybe you want to ask the State Library of Massachusetts or some other specifically-Massachusetts institution? Just a thought.

These very general questions also always make me wonder how much time I should spend on the answer, because I wonder "did he also send this same message to 20 other libraries in Massachusetts?"

And if we're all carefully answering the question, well, that is not economy of scale.

But if no one else answers the question because we all think it's generic and someone else will get it, the poor questioner may wind up with no response at all, and I don't want that.

I am a librarian! I want people to get their answers! I just want it to happen in the most efficient manner possible, and sometimes, that means I really shouldn't be the one giving the answer.

So I try to write a quick, general answer that suggests possible (possibly more appropriate) resources for similar future questions, and it always winds up taking longer than I expect, so I just hope for the sake of economies of scale that anyone else who received that particular question ignored it.

Let's not duplicate effort here.

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