At MPOW, we only work Sundays at the reference desk after fall and spring breaks. Looking at years’ worth of stats have shown us: students don’t come talk to us till halfway through the semester on weekends.
Today was my Sunday. On Friday, I remembered to email the classes I taught this semester, letting folks know I’d be in from 1-5 today. And whoa nelly, was that a good move! I was busy for nearly the entire shift – had only about 15 minutes of downtime.
Generalities of the questions I helped people with today included:
How do I find out actual dates when a very specific type of educational policy/law was implemented in several states? In the past few weeks, she had spent a lot of time in the Digest of Education Statistics, but some of the footnotes for some states and some years were confusing. So we took a lovely stroll through ERIC and found a great search that will get her some good ERIC documents that she’ll get to read to determine the dates more accurately. (I’ve worked with this student and her group a couple of times this semester already.)
How do we make our IPUMS International sample size smaller than the 1GB it looks like it might be? Punted that question to one of my colleagues for a definitive answer because I have no clue. In the meantime, they’re going to simply reduce their sample size so the two years they are pulling have the same number of households, figure out if their STATA commands work, and then go back to get the bigger sample later. Also talked through some logic in figuring out how to determine something like: in this household, what kind of attribute does a particular person have? (I’ve worked with this group once this semester.)
Topic therapy* for a business history course. This was an awesomely fun question. My favorite part was when the student bemoaned the fact that she had so many ideas and just wasn’t sure when or how to stop doing background research. I laughed and said, “My unfinished master’s degree and I salute THAT particular problem!” Also, this was my first successful use of Mergent Online in a research consultation in my current job. The student gave me a high-five for that. 🙂 (I haven’t worked with this student before, although teaching her class was a lot of fun.)
Topic therapy* for a different history course (not one I taught). The student actually walked away from our conversation with nothing more than she came to it with, but felt a LOT more confident that she had already done good work. And she knew how to read call numbers better (the ones she’d identified were more complex than the ones she’d used the in the past… oh decimal places in the first number, how I despise explaining how to interpret you! You’re confusingly confusing.)
Local high school student also working on a history project. We spent 45 minutes traipsing through the Vogue full-text archive, and she was thrilled with the 45MB worth of files she sent to herself.
5 questions, 4 hours, 3 mind-benders, 2 repeat customers, and 1 referral to a colleague. It was a good Sunday at the desk.
* Topic Therapy: a term we use in our small team to describe the conversations we have with some students who are still trying to refine their topic. Having spent a fair amount of time in therapy myself, the analogy is pretty apt.