I work for a large college group. Each site is relatively specialised and the campus I’m on features a lot of land-based and industry courses. This makes it absolutely the best place to work; it’s such a beautiful setting.
Some days, when I amble across campus, I’ll see a horse or two, someone carrying a ferret, a tractor, students swinging from trees with chainsaws (it’s alright – it’s part of their arboriculture course), nursery school students in a neat walking crocodile as they collect pinecones and horticulture students building bug hotels. All this against a soundscape of clanging from the forge, revving from the garage and sawing in the carpentry workshop.
Naturally, this range of courses means we receive a myriad of information requests each day from students and staff, with needs spanning learning, research, professional development and teaching. We run courses on a very wide spectrum from level 1 BTECs to level 6 HNDs. My degree is in English and Theatre Studies and I spent the first 14 years of my working life teaching English. My area of expertise includes pathetic fallacy, spliced commas, anthropomorphism and the semantic field. I can spot synecdoche and allegory from ten paces. Do I know anything about swim bladder, the diagnostic processes for feline renal failure, bombproofing horses (nothing to do with body armour), destructive testing methods, animal welfare legislation, butt joints (raise a single eyebrow here), carburettors, upsetting metal (not making it cry) or ascertaining soil PHs? The answer was* an emphatic no.
What does a library professional do when met with a request for information so far out of your remit it may as well be in another planetary system? Well, in many ways, the answer is simple: you do your job.
In a number of library settings, it is not the library professional’s job to draw upon a specific knowledge area. This is the case in an FE setting such as my own. Our sister campus does have subject librarians because the site is bigger with more staff. Our campus is smaller, ergo with a smaller team. Initially, our role is to connect the user to the information they need. To do so, we activate our information literacy skills: questioning, scanning, summarising, finding, seeking, evaluating, analysing. Thereafter, our role is to help the user to develop the skills they need to connect themselves to the information they want. In short, to develop their information literacy skills. These skills allow you to find out what you know, what you don’t know, what you don’t know that you don’t know! It is a skill set that goes beyond any single subject.
I don’t think I’m blagging it when I help a student find out how to diagnose swim bladder before they find their fish floating upside down at the top of the tank. I think I’m doing my job and using information literacy skills to demonstrate that anyone can learn how to
blag research anything.
*Now, I know a little but I am by no means an expert.