The Problem With Unobtrusive Reference Assignments

Last term for our reference class at library school, we had to do an unobtrusive reference interview. I knew exactly the parameters of this because I'd had to do one at library tech college too. They are stupid. Basically, you go to a library and anonymously ask a questions, and then write a really long paper critiquing the entire transaction. The whole thing felt like one big fat lie. Which it is.  It's lying and spying and, in my opinion, unethical. I'm sure the college and university somehow managed to get the assignment past the ethics board, but that doesn't make it morally right.
Academic Librarian has a very interesting series of blog posts about this very same issue, from the librarian's perspective:
I really want to forward those posts to all my classmates, and the powers-that-be at my library school. I'm just not sure I'm brave enough though...


  1. I had to do the same thing when I was in library school - twice. The first time was completely anyonomous, but the second time we notified the director of the library as to which week we would be there (but not more specific than that), and then sent a copy of the paper to them critiquing the exchange.

    The second instance seemed much more useful to me, as it wasn't just me acting in the vacuum of graduate school - the library itself got a critical review (good and bad) of its service. I don't know if they ever did anything with it, but maybe trying that would make you feel this project was less of a waste.


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