As the fall semester came to a close, all across campus students were busy wrapping up their papers and projects and getting ready for exams. Elizabeth, a psychology student, came to reference librarian Anthony Verdesca for help finding two articles. Read Verdesca’s account below to see how they tackled a challenging reference search, and how the librarian delighted in Elizabeth’s love of learning.
The articles in question were written by a Dr. Siang-Yang Tan. Elizabeth had read other articles by Dr. Tan and found his take on the subject of counseling psychology compelling and edifying.
Problem: Though we subscribed to the journal, we didn’t have the year in which those two articles were published.
Problem: There was no time to submit an inter-library loan.
Quickly, we went to the journal’s home page to see if its editors provided an archive of past issues. No dice.
“Is it critical to your study for you to have these specific articles?” I asked.
|Anthony Verdesca is always at the ready to help students with their research.|
I listened carefully to Elizabeth’s response. Yes, there was no doubt. It was clear that Elizabeth not only fully understood her subject, but comprehended enough of Dr. Tan’s approach that no other source would do. His was the authoritative voice that quickened her and it was his into which she wanted to delve deeper. Elizabeth, you see, was no ordinary student, traipsing around an assignment; no, she was a lover of learning. She grasped what she read. I could tell by her voice. I could see it in her eyes. I mean, 25 years in library work, you notice these things; as a reference librarian, you look for them, you hope for them.
“Well, in that case,” I told her, “Let’s go directly to Dr. Tan’s faculty home page.”
Thanks to Google, we retrieved his page in no time flat. But note well, we had a specific target. We were not surfing.
Once on Dr. Tan’s page, we looked for his publications list to see if he had a link to the full text of his articles. Fat chance.
“Email him,” I said.
“But, but can I do that?” Elizabeth asked incredulously.
That’s when I went into my usual spiel about consulting the authorities, living or dead, in print or online … or in their office! Hey, it’s a free country, right?
I recommended that she explain in her email who she is, what she’s studying, and how helpful Dr. Tan’s insights into the subject proved to be so far. I told her that more than likely she’d get a response from a graduate assistant, and that maybe, just maybe, Dr. Tan would have the G.A. send the two articles as well as some kind words of wisdom and encouragement.
“And Elizabeth,” I pointed out, “Dr. Tan is in California. Though it’s 7 p.m. here, it’s only 4 in the afternoon there. Get moving. Get that email out before that G.A. takes off to beat the traffic!”
That was Tuesday.
On Thursday, Elizabeth came by my office all aglow. She told me: “It was just like you said; Dr. Tan’s graduate assistant responded to my email. She said that Dr. Tan was happy to hear of my interest in his articles.” And there they were, attached to her email.
“Now you have a direct link to an authority on the subject!” I said.
That’s when Elizabeth told me that she was looking forward to next semester.
With students like Elizabeth, so am I.