Last week, a student came to me looking for an article in the New York Times. He needed to use the microfilm. I told him to look at the index and identify the reels he needed. Then, when he found the reels he should come back to me, and I will show him how to load the microfilm reader. Maybe 20 minutes or so went by, and I went to check on the student. He was gone!
Yesterday, he returned to the library. I asked him a series of questions. He said yes to everything I asked him. He was ready to use the reels. He picked the reel, and I helped him load the microfilm reader. I was having some technical problems so I enlisted some help from my kind colleagues. Turns out he never looked at the index, and used Wikipedia. I asked him if he used the index, and he said he did not know he needed to use it. It was amazing. A few people told me I was an “authority figure” and he did not want to tell me he needed help. This left me baffled. You come to a librarian for help. Why not tell me you did not do something or you do not understand? I work very hard at being approachable. He came back a few hours later looking for something else. I learned a little bit about him, and asked my questions differently. Image from: http://www.microfiche-microfilm-scanning.co.uk/microfiche-reader.html