Friday, January 26, 2007

The Ultimate Teachable Moment

I'm wondering how many of these perfect teachable moments we are missing out on?--

a lawyer or student comes to us and says: "I have spent 15 min/30 min/4 hours on this and can't find this document. Can you find it?"

Well, our favourite thing in the world as reference librarians is to run around, quickly find it, pull a rabbit out of the hat and say: TA-DA!

But wait....

...we may look like a star for 15 seconds, but have we really taken advantage of this opportunity??

The person is ripe for learning how to find this document. Ideally, we should be taking him or her by the hand and walking through the steps to finding the solution. Worst case scenario, if the task has just been hoisted on us and the person has disappeared, we should provide a rationale (email, voicemail) as to how it was found.

How many of these moments have we missed? It's that whole "Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime" concept.

Especially if the person is already hungry for the knowledge, that is the perfect time to feed it to him or her. It really is the ultimate teachable moment.

Top photo of fisherman is by UpNorth Memories.
Bottom photo of man eating fish is by spiderwegian.
Both with some rights reserved under Creative Commons. Both located through the Flickr advanced search screen.


Wendy Reynolds said...

The challenge, of course, is to recognise when the moment is "teachable", and when you just have to produce the answer. Rank is no indicator of interest - I've had some really senior folk happily trail me about the collection, reminiscing about their student days. Alternatively, there are situations when the student/young associate *just needs the answer* so that they can meet their deadline.

Sometimes, you've gotta pick your spots.

Unknown said...

A humbling reminder that the Librarian's big wow isn't always the best for a user. Mary Kathering Gallagher taught other people to be Superstars too. Thanks for this.