Robin Daniels is a current student in the library and information sciences master’s program. Daniels completed her undergraduate degree in public policy at Michigan State University with a minor in French. Currently an online student, Daniels also works full time for a local Michigan State senator while also completing her degree at the iSchool.
Last semester, Daniels completed IST 605: Reference and Information Literacy Services. Throughout the semester, Daniels worked on a final project for the class that included answering a reference question that she had to formulate.
“Broadly, what you are doing is trying to answer a reference question,” said Daniels. “So, you create a user that has walked into the library. In my case, I decided to choose a public library in Texas. I had a young woman walk in and ask how she would open a business, more specifically a greenhouse in her local town.”
In addition to formulating the reference question, Daniels came up with the demographic information of her user as well, “I chose to make my user mixed race,” said Daniels. “As I learned, bilingual users internalize and interpret information differently and they prefer to have resources in their native language. So, I ended up needing to find Spanish resources, but I needed to find Spanish resources on English databases because I don’t speak Spanish. That was one of the things I had to work through.”
Considering the demographics of a user when consulting resources to answer reference questions is imperative to the usefulness to the user, “Women and women of color also interpret information differently,” said Daniels. “That intersection will come into play, as will her age and education level. It’s possible that your regional identities could influence how you digest information.”
The outcome of the project was a list of information resources that answered the user’s reference question, “What that actually encompassed was resources from Texas’s small business association, local ordinance and laws for her city Rio Verde, information about planting and growing in greenhouses, but also, local landscaping questions,” said Daniels.
The final project spanned over the course of the semester, with deadlines all leading up to the final list of references. One of the overall purposes of the project was to educate students on how to find resources to answer specific reference questions they may be asked as a librarian.
“It was an opportunity to really look at the variety of questions and issues that I might face in the field of librarianship, which is exactly what I wanted,” said Daniels.
When asked about some of the challenges while completing the project, Daniels cited it being hard not knowing when to stop. Daniels and her classmates shared in the challenge of attempting to find “the perfect resource” which usually doesn’t exist for reference questions that are very niche and specific, which all ultimately are.
“I determined that my user was passionate about native restoration. I ended up exploring a lot of information about native flora in Texas, and what that would have looked like pre-settlement and how you could have gone about re-establishing those populations. Even a specific question really has depth to it as you dig in.”
Upon completion of the project, Robins reflected on the usefulness of the project for her future career which included the ability to efficiently search for resources and be creative in doing so. For future projects and job opportunities, searching for resources will come more innately rather than being a challenge in and of itself.
Once Daniels graduates, she is interested in becoming a working librarian, possibly within the government which aligns with her undergraduate degree in public policy and current experience working with a local senator. Daniels is especially interested in accessibility as it relates to librarianship and acknowledges the importance of considering accessibility in a field that specializes in managing and accessing information.