I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of months now . . . the subject still bothers me, so I thought why not publish it anyway . . . so here goes! My first post for the Room of Infinite Diligence.
I work in a research centre, and go out and about in the community a heck of a lot too, delivering presentations on my specialist subject and my collection’s resources.
I am fairly active on the social media front, mostly trying to inform and update people, and networking. But I have a bit of fun with it too.
I am very passionate about user-education and information literacy. I see this as my primary role, when out and about, and also in the Centre.
As part of my job back in the research centre, we also do paid research, for those customers who can’t come in to the centre, or who can’t do the research themselves. Its a great service, and also a part of my job that I enjoy.
I was a bit taken aback a while ago, to receive a phone call from a customer, who wanted to pay me to do the research for her daughter’s high school “dissertation”.
The daughter was much too busy to do her own research, as she spent many hours a week on sports training. Apparently she was a top athlete, represents her country, and couldn’t spare the time to come in to the library to do her own research.
The subject of the school project was outside my department’s specialism, but as a researcher and librarian, I offered to recommend some resources, send some books free to her local library via our reservations service – but, no her daughter was much too busy, she wanted me to actually do the research for her.
The customer service side of me battled furiously with the educator side of me. For a moment.
I took a deep breath, and explained very politely, that it would be better for her daughter to do the research herself, as it helped her with her learning and set her up for a lifelong learning path.
I was told that she always got librarians to do the research for her daughter (and named someone and went into specifics about a particular incidence) . . . that she’d used our research centre before, and that it was money well spent.
She replied that her daughter was a top student that got top marks for her projects at an IB school. Another deep breath. I offered more suggestions, more resources. Not interested “good bye,” she hung up.
I felt very sad. I did a bit of soul searching to see if I could have dealt with it differently, better. I worried about whether I had given good customer service.
Then I wondered about parents who think its ok to pay someone to do their child’s homework.
That sports practice is more important than academic “practice”.
Then I felt perhaps I’d failed, because I hadn’t delivered “user education” adequately. Or that maybe another librarian would have got a better result.
That perhaps I’d failed because I hadn’t made her understand (conflicted eh?)
But then this high achieving, high school sports star, also apparently achieves top marks on her projects. Perhaps that’s because she gets librarians to do the bulk of the work for her?
Question is, should I have stuck to my guns? If the mother hadn’t been upfront with me, I’d have done the research anyway, blissfully ignorant, unaware (you can still snow the best “reference interviews”).
Maybe that is what had happened previously, if other librarians had really done her research for her. Is it poor customer service to assert your opinion in such matters?
Did I discriminate in some way, by not quietly just doing the research for this student regardless? I wondered what the student’s teachers would have said if they had known. Should I have rung the school and given them the heads up? Or is that a bridge too far? Was I right not to? Is it any of my business what someone wants to do with the research they commission from me?
A colleague I discussed this with asked “what is the difference between arranging a contract with a paid researcher, and a well-off student going online to a paid assignment writing service?”
Could I have handled this differently?
What do you think? What would you have done?