When I’m on reference, I’m almost always on Virtual Reference (VR), also known as the chat reference. The public services librarians have found that the in-person reference desks do need to be staffed, but they are not as crucial or as heavily used as virtual reference. So, of course, the acquisitions graduate assistant (me) is 99% of the time on VR when doing reference.
Like in-person reference desks are most often asked directional questions, VR often has common questions. It’s often about accessing electronic resources. Unfortunately, there are thousands (seemingly) of reasons that an electronic resource won’t work. There are just too many potential points of failure, it seems. There’s human failures – whether on the library’s or the vendor’s or the patron’s side. And then there are the technology failures – the network, the browser, the computer, the platform, etc.
When I’m on VR and an electronic resources problem pops up, I get a pit in my stomach. I’m probably one of the best people to talk to about the problem…and I know it, so I really want to perform. Unfortunately, I’m not doing VR from the acquisitions office, and often not during the hours in which acquisitions is open. What might be a semi-easy fix in acquisitions, with the ER team and my work computer with various software at my fingertips, becomes seemingly impossible from a VR station.
While I floundered in performance anxiety originally, I have come to learn a lot of tricks that can be implemented away from acquisitions. For example, the proxy url prefix that works for acquisitions people…doesn’t always work when jettisoned as a url via chat. Instead, one can add an affix to the middle of the url (immediately after the .com) in order to proxy an off-campus patron in.
All in all, the lesson here is that an electronic resources librarian is going to experience some performance anxiety no matter where they are or what they’re doing – particularly if they’re not in their “home” environment. Even with electronic resources that aren’t from my library, I want to be able to master and fix them. And if there’s a problem while I’m at home, researching for a class, I’ll be sure to freak out over the inability to access a resource.
Even though there’s performance anxiety (“I have to get this resource to work now!”), I want to let you (and myself) know that everything will be okay. You’ll learn tricks for different situations (like at your office or on the VR desk). Most electronic resource issues are not emergency situations; if it’s midnight and a patron needs a specific journal, they can probably wait until 9am the next morning. The other people on the public service desk aren’t going to think you’re incompetent; they’re more interested in grilling you about policies and procedures that you’ve got down pat.
Don’t let performance anxiety cripple you; you’re doing just fine.