Services to the school-aged child require much personal interaction and an “education mode” on part of the staff member. Show children the process you take to assist them and they will pick it up, maybe not the first time, but after modeling one or more times they will remember at least part of the process and be ahead in learning important library skills.
Conduct the reference interview very carefully.
It is important to match the materials with both the question and the child. There will, of course, come a time when all you have available for a third grader on Benjamin Franklin is a 250 page book. Here you may need to make that book match the child by locating a timeline or other basic fact page(s) by using the index, and ensuring the child knows how to use an index.
Kathleen Horning, former reference librarian with Madison (WI) public libraries, and current director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center also in Madison, presents the following observations about differences between adult and children’s reference work:
Every child’s reference staff person has had a biography question in the same vein as this: The child has a name scribbled down that reads “Charlotte Main”. After a reference interview that seemingly takes hours and some initial dead-end searching, your last desperate stab at clarifying the person somehow uncovers the fact that the child is really looking for information on Charlemagne (King of the Franks).
Children will inquire about a book their teacher read to them that they now want to share with their parent. The child only remembers part and so the adventure begins.
Have you ever noticed that a child’s approach to the desk sometimes takes longer than it takes you to answer their question?
Kathleen Horning conducted an unscientific study where she noticed girls 8-17 rarely ask for assistance unless they are dragged over by a third party, yet boys seem to have no problem simply marching over (sometimes interrupting another interaction) and asking their question.
If the above observation holds true in your library as well, it is especially important to adhere to the following service guideline. Youth services reference staff need to develop a habit of making the rounds in the aisles, throughout the area asking How is it going?, Are you finding everything okay? or Can I help you find anything?
Different ages ask questions differently, as they are developing skills and vocabulary. Staff must alter their technique to the age (or personality) of the child. Children ask all the same kinds of questions yet on a different level from adults.
Let’s review the four categories of questions:
Adults ask all types of questions. All children ask directional questions. Preschoolers and school children alike ask ready reference questions. All school children ask informational questions, but it is more likely home-schooled children who will pose research questions, relating to an in-depth project they are working on.
It is crucial to make sure all staff understands that just because the patron is shorter, their questions are not less important than those of adults. Service should be separate but equal
On a particularly busy day/evening you may find yourself juggling a few requests and do not have the time to take the patron through the “how to locate” process. In these times it is good to have the Dewey Decimal System memorized to at least some degree.
We will take some time to review the general Dewey Decimal areas and list some specific high traffic or in-demand numbers:
000s – general reference, library/bibliographic material, computer science,
001 UFOs/unexplained, 005 computer program guides, 031 encyclopedias
100s – supernatural, emotions, philosophy
133 occult (witches/ghosts), 155 grief
200s – religion and mythology
220 Bible/Bible stories, 292 Greek mythology
300s – sociology, education, customs and celebrations, folklore
305 families, 347 government, 372 (home) school, 394 holidays, 398 folk-fairytale
400s – language
419 sign language, 423 dictionary/thesaurus, 428 English grammar
500s – math and science - all areas: space, chemistry, physics, geo-science, life science
507 experiments, 510 math, 520 space, 551 weather, 595 insects, 599 mammals
600s – inventors, human body, vehicles, agriculture, pets, cookery/home economics,
610 inventors, 612 body, 629 cars/trucks, 636 farm/pets, 639 fish, 641 cookbooks
700s – recreation - all areas: music, art, games and sports
736 origami, 743 drawing, 781 music, 793 magic tricks/games, 796 sports
800s – literature featuring poetry and theatre
808 writing aids, 811 and 814 poetry, 812 plays, 818 jokes/riddles
900s – world geography and history
909 timelines, 910 exploration, 970 Native Americans, 973 United States history
92 – Sometimes used to indicate biography/autobiography. Some libraries simply use
“BIO” instead, as the idea of two digits as opposed to three confuses some people.
If you know Dewey well enough to go directly to the appropriate shelf, you can take a person to the area of need, get them started looking, assist another or others in the same (or different) way, and return to follow-up ensuring he or she found what he or she needed. On a busy day/evening, this tactic can stop the pile-ups and end some anxiety and frustration – both yours and theirs. It also comes in handy when the computers some of us greatly rely on go down during crucial service times.
Click the arrow below to continue to the next page