The John B. Nann article of the same title said, in one of its first paragraphs, “Many law libraries have seen a decline in the number of questions asked at the reference desk, while reporting that the questions that are being asked are far more complicated than in the past. Like the medical reference librarians, many law librarians also believe that the decline in the number of questions that we see is not because our patrons no longer need research assistance.” Indeed, this echoes a statement made by Jim during my interview with him; because simple queries can be looked up online, the librarians are being given the more challenging ones, and this is true of public librarians and academic librarians as well.
“We are in fact answering the questions but are answering them so efficiently that they don’t appear in our reference desk statistics,” Nann hypothesized. However, the idea that many do not utilize the librarians out of nerves or even a simple lack of awareness must be considered and worked around.
Nann presents the idea of personal librarians for students to counteract these problems: “A personal librarian program is ridiculously simple. Each incoming student is assigned a librarian. The librarian contacts the student at the beginning of his or her time at the school and at regular intervals. Basically, that’s it,” he says. As a student, I know that I personally would appreciate this resource, but I also know that it could have its downsides. As with having an assigned counselor at school, for example, there can be a sense that it is only perfunctory and not actually personal at all after a while if not handled carefully. So long as an actual working relationship like Nann discusses in the article can be formed, it seems very viable, however.
“It is our responsibility as librarians to reach out to them in any and every way that makes sense, while giving due consideration to our resources, culture, and history,” Nann said. That seems to be more or less the mission statement of every librarian I’ve spoken to, so if you have to go about it in this way, I say why not.