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Intellect

Lee Library reference desk patrons "seeing red" to solve research problems

Visitors to the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University may have noticed the recent appearance of the color red as student employees promote the value of reference desks with the slogan “Research Rescue.”

Red T-shirts and posters serve as symbols of the new campaign, “Go Ahead and Ask,” which has the goal to inform students, faculty and community patrons about the easiest ways to find resources in the library.

“Reference desks are the lifeblood of the library,” says Terry Dahlin,an assistant university librarian who oversees the reference personnel. “They are the place students can go to get answers to their questions about where to find materials and how best to perform research.”

Students often feel intimidated asking a question about something they think they’re already expected to know, and often do not always approach the reference desks.

“You’re probably going to think this is a stupid question” is one of the most common statements Darlene Stoddard, a student who works at the Information Commons desk, hears.

Stoddard says students also hesitate to ask questions of their peers for fear of looking unknowledgeable. While professional librarians are available, the students who work at the desks are accustomed to getting all types of questions.

“We assist them in finding background information so they can properly narrow their research topic, and then we can walk them through finding books and articles on their topic,” says Sandra Tidwell, a reference desk librarian.

“We assist patrons in understanding the basic principles behind database searching, how to enter their search terms, and how to locate the full text —either in print or electronically —for the items which are relevant to their research,” she said.

Along with helping students to begin their research papers, the reference desk specialists can also help them finish. RefWorks is a software program that can compile and organize the bibliography, one of the least thrilling parts of the research process. The program can also convert the bibliography into the required writing style without the student ever having to type up the reference or look through a stylebook.

The reference desks at BYU have been highly honored. A study conducted last year using the Wisconsin Ohio Reference Evaluation Program gave BYU’s reference desk services the highest score among schools of its size. The score was also the highest ever given in the program’s 20-year history.

For more information, contact Mike Hooper at (801) 422-6687 or mike_hooper@byu.edu.

Writer: Mike Hooper

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