Monday, May 13, 2013

Librarian Research Recognition

I ran across a peculiar situation recently where a man called the reference desk at my institution and asked for a few pages of scanned microfiche. I graciously replied and sent him the pages. About six months later, I received an email from him informing me that he had thanked me in his book for my assistance.

At first, I was delighted that he would think to thank me in his book, but as I thought about it more, I couldn't help but feel that I hadn't done much for this man. I was just fulfilling a research request like any other librarian who would have answered the reference desk phone. It wasn't as if I had done major, in depth research on his topic. I just sent him a few pages of scanned microfiche.

The pages of scanned microfiche that I sent him were hugely important to the development of his story, so I believe that he had placed unnecessary importance on my contribution. It wasn't the research that I did that was worthy of a "thank you" in print, it was the substance of the scanned microfiche that had him so excited.

After contemplating the situation, I called and asked the man not to thank me in his book. I didn't deserve special recognition.

But when is it okay to accept research attribution in a book or other work?

I haven't seen much written on this topic, and I haven't seen any guidelines published. It seems that it is left up to the librarian to decide when to accept recognition.

I recently read a comments thread on ALA ThinkTank's Facebook page about a librarian who was excited to be recognized for research, and she asked the group for advice about putting the recognition on her CV. Some librarian commenters told her she could and should, others said she should not put it on her CV -- that research recognition should remain as additional information in her cover letter, if at all.

At this point, I feel like I am creating my own personal guidelines for this type of recognition. I have no problem with receiving individualized recognition for substantial research that I do to aid law school faculty in their publication efforts. However, I will not accept recognition for the situation I referenced above -- basically just a document delivery request.

So the questions become, do I ask the author to attribute the resources at my institution's library instead of thanking me individually for help? Or do I tell the author that there is no need to thank anyone -- it's just a librarian doing her job? I'll continue to ponder this, no doubt.


  1. That's a very interesting question. I'm not a librarian, but it seems to me that if someone wants to thank you, you let them thank you. But I guess it depends on how many people the author thanked in the book's forward. If the author thanked anyone tangentially connected with the book, then I would say keep the thank you. But if you were one of the few thanked for the importance of your contribution, then it probably does make sense to at least contact the author to discuss the special recognition.

  2. The other issue, here, is that this book is on a very controversial topic, and the author put my work information in the thank you. If he thanks me for my research and includes my work information, does it appear that my institution condones the material in the book? As a librarian, I do not ask patrons why they want information or how they will use it; I just provide it. Many people do not fully understand the nuances of librarianship, and I could see it becoming a sticky issue that I would rather avoid.

    1. That's a good point. Perhaps, then, you ask to just thank you and not the institution. I wouldn't think that any reasonable reader would think that the institution supports a position simply because you provided information for the book. It's your duty to help regardless of the topic, I think. But, nevertheless, it's the unreasonable people that may cause the problems.