When you know someone will ask again…
Building your own information files
You will save time and serve patrons better by not re-doing work already done, and by anticipating questions you will be asked. Establish your own files (or bookmark Web sources) in the following categories:
- Answers to questions often asked. For example:
- The population of your town.
- The origin of the town’s name
- The address of your legislators. (Be sure to note changes in office holders.)
- How to say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Birthday” in several languages.
- The address of websites with reliable local information.
- If it was hard to find, save it. Even if the question seems so unique it will never be asked again, chances are it will be!
- Anticipate questions. If a big story is breaking in the news, gather background information and have it handy. Clip current newspaper articles or bookmark them if there is a Web version. Bookmark other relevant websites.
- Track annual homework assignments, working with local educators whenever possible.
Storing Your Files, Building Databases or FAQs
There are many possibilities for storing this information. Check what has already been done in your library, and look for new ideas. New technologies make it easier to provide reference remotely, capture the answers, and build databases from the frequently asked questions.
- Create an internal wiki
- Establish a database. This is easier with remote reference technology that can save answers for storing in database format.
- Build FAQs to assist patrons.
- Bookmark Internet sites or have them added to the library’s recommended lists.
- Some libraries still maintain physical files of commonly asked questions and used resources
Building a Pamphlet File (Vertical File)
Your library may also have pamphlet files. They are a way to house information that comes in shapes and sizes that don’t fit well on book shelves, or that you don’t want to take the time and expense to catalog fully as books. They can be arranged in file folders or hanging folder by subject or by Dewey (or other) classification system to coordinate with other print resources. They are especially useful for local information on companies, attractions, residents, etc. Formats may include:
- Photocopies of articles
- Single sheets of information
- Maps and travel brochures.
You will need to make a decision on whether the material can be checked out of your library or must be used in the library.
Organizing and Classifying
A simple way to find subject headings for your folders is to use the system used for your library catalog. If your branch has a pamphlet file already set up, it may be your job to add to it and “weed” it, i.e., get rid of old, obsolete material you no longer need. Be wary, however, of throwing away anything that might be of value to local historians. If you have items that pertain to your own community, no matter how old, you should check with your supervisor before discarding them.
Major Point: Save time by keeping files of pamphlets, articles, maps, etc., to answer questions frequently asked at your library or build databases of answers and FAQs.