While most questions may relate to the library (policies, hours, resources available), sometimes patrons seek the guidance of a librarian for matters outside the usual purview of library services. This is a great compliment: it demonstrates the trust that people put in the information found through libraries, as mediated by librarians. Indeed, a recent survey commissioned by Arts Council England found that “Library staff are second only to doctors in terms of the trust placed in them by seekers of information, which again demonstrates the need for these staff to be effectively trained in order to deliver the safe, quality service people expect.” See https://www.goscl.com/survey-reveals-librarians-second-only-to-doctors-in-publics-trust/ for a copy of the report.
In this session, a UK patron used Enquire, the UK national virtual reference service, to ask about taking a mobility scooter on the train. The patron asked the question in the evening, when the UK was not staffing – it was picked up by a Coop librarian across the pond, in the U.S. This session demonstrates virtual reference services may field a wide variety of questions, due to the trusted place of librarians in the community, and that with good searching skills and a welcoming approach, librarians can provide an important service beyond that which strictly pertains to the library:
Patron: I have been told recently that I can use my electric scooter on trains, as its medium size, not big, I always thought I had to book, that is a bit off putting, as i dont get out regularly, but would be good if I could just go to station buy ticket and go to [small town in U.K.] deaf club just like that...but Im so lack of confidence I dont know what to do, do I just go and try buy ticket and maybe end up embarrased that i cant do it..
Librarian: Hi! I am a librarian in [U.S. location] and I'll be assisting you today. Your librarians have asked our librarians to staff this 24-hour service when they are unavailable. I'm reading your question right now to see how I can help you.
Patron:Well now I see [U.S. location] and I’m in UK, Im unsure if you can help me..
Librarian: I can certainly get you started in the right direction, never fear!
Patron: Thank you
Librarian: My grandparents were deaf, and I have a mobility issue that causes me to sometimes use a scooter, so I know where you are coming from.
Librarian: Let's unravel the issues and see if there is some guidance for you.
Librarian: Do you have a few minutes for this now?
Librarian: Great -- so one issue is booking ahead of time to accommodate your scooter, right?
Patron: issue is to just go and get ticket and board train
Patron: as I cant book in advance, as Im unable to get out many times
Librarian: Yes, I totally agree - it's frustrating to have to do that much planning to simply ride a bus or train!
Librarian: Let's see what the disability policy is for your transport system.
Librarian: Which one did you want to use?
Patron: Just to GO when Im able and buy ticket and board train with scooter..
Librarian: Yes - but my understanding is that each area of the UK is served by a different train company (no more British Rail, right?)
Patron: been such a long time since I used a train, I think you are right no more british rail
Librarian: OK let's search for transport in your area -- where do you live?
Patron: [name of town]
Librarian: What county is [name of town]?
Patron: [name of county]
Librarian: Great --let me do a little search now and see what train services that area. Just a moment.
Patron: ok no problem. The guy who wrote down that i could just go and buy ticket works with electric scooters for disabled..But I haven't gone and asked at station as i dont want to be embarrassed.
Librarian: It looks like [town] is served by National Rail. Here is their web site page for passengers with disabilities: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/passenger_services/disabled_passengers/
Librarian: Would you need assistance getting on and off the train, do you think?
Patron: Only thing I would want is ramp into carriage of train, Ive seen bikes etc go on
Librarian: They are very used to working with all kinds of passengers and are set up to help, so I wouldn't hesitate to ask -- you have every right to ask for help!
Librarian: So what they ask that you do is just let them know, so they can have someone ready to help when you get there -- are you comfortable doing that?
Patron: I know they have ramp into carriage all I would need to do is drive aboard, and I also know they have lifts at stations now so I can cross from 1 side to other with ease
Librarian: Here's what they say about riding the train with a scooter:
Librarian: Let's also find out if [name of town] station has a lift or ramp.Just a sec.
Librarian: While I'm looking -- do you have one of these?!
Patron: My son has told me they do and I have just read and my scooter comes within all catagories,dimensions etc
Librarian: OK, I will double-check on that...
Patron: no I don’t have railcard as i dont use it that much
Librarian: Here are some tips from that disabled railcard site:
Patron: so I dont have to book ticket, I can just go and buy ticket and go ?
Librarian: Here's the station web site -- I'm looking to make sure there are ramps and a lift: [librarian sends link to info about town’s station]
Librarian: When you scroll down, there is a whole section on Accessibility.
Patron: I know from my son that stations I need have lifts and that is great, I just wante4d to make sure I can just go and buy ticket and board without booking
Librarian: No, unfortunately, you can't!
Librarian: They need notice as they have to make sure they have room for your scooter, even if it's regulation size.
Librarian: If you prefer, you can just go and buy a ticket -- as long as you can navigate the station, and don't mind waiting for help. It looks like they have a staffed Help Point during the day. It's up to you.
Librarian: Help points are available on all platforms Monday-Friday 24 hours Saturday 24 hours Sunday 24 hours Staff help Monday-Friday 05:00-22:30 Saturday 05:00-22:30 Sunday 06:30-22:30
Patron: Ok maybe I should just go and try and see what happens
Librarian: If you feel more comfortable doing that, then that's what you should do!
Patron: yes that is pleasing
Librarian: The most important thing is that you do it your way, but that you do it!
Librarian: Getting out is so beneficial, it's worth a bit of struggle.
Patron: I get maybe 1 or 2 days a week where I can use scooter and balance is ok
Librarian: Yes, I experience that myself -- it's frustrating but I push myself anyway!
Patron: sadly sometimes I havent been out for about 3 months
Librarian: Yes, people without these issues don't understand how difficult the simplest things are. I hope you will try, and just go with the flow as long as you have the time and patience. It will be worth it.
Patron: Yes I will go and try it out, hopefully that it isnt busy day
Patron: Ok many many thanks for your help
Librarian: You're very welcome.
Librarian: Please log back on if you need more help, or other searches done.
Patron: most helpful indeed have a nice day if its daytime there
Librarian: It is! A bit cloudy but you understand that :)) Have a wonderful time on your adventure! Bye for now.
Patron: bye for now
While this isn’t typically the type of question asked at the library, a virtual service may receive a wider range of requests. Public libraries especially seek to engage with their community and establish relevance – and to be a trusted partner in a crowded world of information is a nice place to be!
Comments about this or any quality issue? Post your comments or email me at [email protected]