I’m so behind on posts that I wanted to write-up. I went to having a good amount of time free to slammed in about a month. At any rate this post will be about this past weekend at HPU. I’ll try to write-up how my first and second day at FCPL (Forsyth County Public Library) tonight as well. No promises.
When I arrived on Friday night, the librarian on shift before me had received a request for reference help that had her a bit stumped. Since she was unsure of what to do she asked me to take a look and email the student if I found anything. The question involved architecture history in Oslo, Norway and how climate effects home design. At first I thought architecture databases were the way to go, since it was a specific question…specific databases. What we had access to didn’t really give me much in the way of history on Norwegian architecture. Most of it was current information and when I tried to add the climate qualifier…nothing.
By this time I had to put it aside because I received a chat request for help on locating articles dealing with contractor influence and US defense. Then I was hit back to back with quick chat questions and in person help. Once it calmed down I went back to the other question but I started over by looking at what I knew. I knew that they were looking for Norwegian architecture specifically Oslo, but also how the climate affects home design. But that’s really all I knew, since I didn’t speak to the student before hand I wasn’t able to conduct a reference interview myself. And the person before had didn’t give me any information outside of this topic. Plus they needed it by Saturday night. So I had to infer a lot, such as I knew that HPU didn’t have a major in architecture nor do they have a class on the history of Norway. So I guessed the pertinent information was the climate effect on home design, and Norway was picked as a location for having extreme climate. HPU does have an Interior Design major so I figured that’s what this was for.
I was looking at this as being something specific that warranted specific and detailed sources. But when I stepped back I looked at as being less specific and decided to use a more general database. That’s when I was able to find an Norwegian journal written in English that resulted in four articles that I thought would work wonders. Just to see what would come back I checked Wikipedia, and wouldn’t you know it there was a pretty good article on Norwegian architecture. I checked the sources….95% of them were in Norwegian or Swedish. I tried two online translators and they were both filled with fail when trying to translate these languages.
So I felt I had exhausted all the sources I could find. I sent an email off to the student, explaining what I did. Gave them some tips and stressed that by picking a non-english speaking country, unless they spoke that language, the results were going to be limited. So I stressed that I felt they should come in for a one on one if they needed more help finding sources. They haven’t responded back so I’m not sure if it helped or not. But they haven’t come in for more help…so perhaps it did. I guess I’m worried since I wasn’t able to speak to them myself and I had to guess quite a bit.
I would love to know how other people handle this sort of thing, when you aren’t in on the initial request, aren’t able to contact the student for more information in a timely manner.