03 September, 2009

libraries are about people

With a nod to the Swiss Army Librarian and his reference question of the week, I'll post about mine.
At one of our library branches a woman enquired if I could assist her to find some information from a newspaper about her father. A tragic event had occurred and I had the feeling that having an article to read would provide the lady with some concrete facts and perhaps some closure. The lady knew the town in which the event occurred, so I looked up Newsbank to get an idea of newspaper names (although I know Newsbank only goes back to 1998).
I contacted the newspaper, asking if they kept microform back a few decades (not supposing that they would) and if their paper was of the same name back in the early 80s. So I would know which newspaper to search in. They emailed back quite promptly with the answer that I had already begun a line of enquiry on - the public library.
I called, asking to speak to the information services librarian or interlibrary loans librarian, but the place was too small to have such staff. The staff member who spoke with me though, was quite happy to help. I explained the request, for a newspaper article from a particular time period (a few days date range) with the lady's father's name. The library staffer told me they held bound copies of the newspaper, checked she had that date, found the article, and said she'd send it right away.
I logged the request through our ILL officer, and the article came in the post today. It was a difficult article to read, knowing what it may mean to the lady requesting it. I wouldn't have felt good about just sending it in the post, or leaving at the desk for her to collect. This was definitely a people issue. She wanted to collect it.
That was hard for both of us, I think, but it certainly felt that I had done something meaningful in my working day. Libraries are about people, and that is a timely message for me to take to our working group next week.

1 comment:

Warren said...

After reading your post this morning, I heard the following phrase on the radio at lunch time (story was unrelated to libraries). "In times of need, people aren't interested in what you know, but how much you care".