Middlebury

LIS Documentation

LIS Documentation

Research Tips for Circulation Staff

Why is this so important?

The library has over a million books, journals, government documents, audio and video recordings, diaries, newsletters, annual reports, microfilm reels and microfiche sheets. We have online catalogs that show what we own, what our consortial partner libraries own, and what other libraries around the world own. We have databases for statistics, photographs, and newspapers. In short, we have a wealth of information.

Even though we try to publicize our resources through workshops, newsletters, web guides and the like, much of it remains invisible to our researchers. Therefore, as a library staff member who works at a public service point (eg, Circulation Desk or Help Desk), it is crucial that you help to connect researchers with resources or refer to a librarian when appropriate. This page gives advice on how to do that.

Guidelines

You've been asked a research question?  Here's what to do:

  1. Is the question similar to any of the Sample Questions below? If so, follow the instructions.
  2. If you hear yourself saying, "Sorry...[I'm not sure; we don't own that; Midcat doesn't include that; maybe we should just try Google]" -- please refer to a librarian (go/askalibrarian)
  3. Remember, librarians want to help and have lots of research expertise (training and experience).  Please don't hesitate to refer students, faculty, staff and guests to them.
  4. What if a librarian is not available?  Check with your circ supervisor to see if it is a question he or she can help with.  Also alert the user to the hours a librarian is available and the alternative ways of contacting a librarian (phone, email, texting)
  5. You might also show them how to get to the Library Subject Guides if they need to get started on research before a librarian will be available (ex. late at night, Saturdays). 


Sample Questions

Some research questions are easy to answer, and some are not so easy.  Some are deceptive--they seem easy at first, but with a little inquiry you'll find that they require more time and expertise.  Use these sample questions as a guide.  Follow the recommended steps, and remember you can always refer to a librarian.


A. Where is RESERVES?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "My professor told me she put a book on reserves." "Can you tell me what my ERes password is?"

1) go/lib > Library Quick Search > Reserves

2) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to reserves staff or refer to a librarian.


B. Where is THIS JOURNAL [or book or newspaper]?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "Do we have the book The College on the Hill?" "I need to find this article in the New England Journal of Medicine." "Where are the journals?"

1) go/lib > Library Quick Search > For books, select "MIDCAT+"; for journals and newspapers, select "Journals A-Z" and search for the title of the journal, not the title of the article

2)  WorldCat > Find a record for the item and "Borrow from other library - ILL"

3) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to a librarian

4)  For more information, consult Find Books and Find Articles.


C. How do I get to THIS DATABASE?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "How do I get to JSTOR?" "Where is LexisNexis?"

1) go/lib > Library Quick Search > "Databases A-Z"

2) Does the person want some help using the database? Refer to a librarian.

3) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to a librarian.


D. How do I CITE THIS ARTICLE [or book or web page]?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "How do I write a footnote in MLA Style?" "How do I cite online newspapers?" "How do I get to RefWorks?"

1) Show the person Style & Citation Guides. It includes advice on citation styles and a link to RefWorks and RefWorks guides.

2) Does the person want more help? Refer to a librarian.

3) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to a librarian.


E. Where are THE NEWSPAPERS?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "Where is the New York Times?"

1) Do they need a specific newspaper? See letter B ("Where is this JOURNAL?") above.

2) Do they simply want to see the newspapers we have in print? Direct them to the newspapers section of Current Periodicals, on the Lower Level.

3) Do they simply want to see the newspapers we have in print and online? Show them the Newspapers guide (go/newspapers) and refer to a librarian.

4) Do they need newspaper articles from a particular time period or place? Refer to a librarian.

5) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to a librarian.


F. Where are THE DVDs?

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "Do you have any movies in Spanish?"

1) Do they know what DVD they want to watch? If they're not faculty and they want to take DVDs outside the building, direct them to the browsing collection.  Also try the Find Videos guide.

2) go/lib > Library Quick Search > Videos > Search by title, language, or genre

3) "Do we have films on global warming" (or any subject-based question)? Refer to a librarian.

4) "Sorry" ...can't find it? Refer to a librarian.

5) For more information, see Find Videos.


G. I need to do RESEARCH ABOUT...

Sometimes sounds like this instead: "Where do I find the books on Japanese history?" "I need scholarly articles on sustainable farming." "How can I find CDs that will teach me French?" "I'm trying to figure out the GDP and unemployment rate for Kenya" "I'm supposed to write a paper on negro baseball leagues in the 1920s" "Which countries ratified the Kyoto protocol"

1) Refer to a librarian.

2) If a librarian is not available, show them the link to subject guides if they want to get started on their own and show them our Research Advice page.


H. None of the above...

Did someone ask you a research question that isn't like any of the sample questions above?  Great!  Refer to a librarian.  Remember, librarians want to help.  It's what they're supposed to do!

If you "refer to a librarian," what will the librarian do? Librarians will ask the researcher a few questions to learn exactly what they need. Are they writing a thesis, or are they just putting together a short bibliography? How much do they know about the topic already? Where have they looked for information? What terms and techniques have they used in searching? Do they need a historical perspective, or just the most recent scholarship? Are they focusing on a town, a state, or a country? When is the project due? Once the librarian understands what's needed, she or he will show the researcher how to find and use the best resources. The librarian and the researcher will work together on the topic until all questions are answered.

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