Who needs Google?

Nancy Leek

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

Nancy Leek works behind the counter in the middle of the Chico Branch of the Butte County Library as the reference librarian. She’s been at her post for two-and-one half years and in Chico for 14, coming here from the Bay Area with her husband and five children all now grown. We quietly asked her if she would answer some questions for us, not having to do with where to find information on Spain’s Mt. Teida or Salvador Dali and the surrealists. Thank goodness for the librarians of the world, without whom a lot of us would be constantly chasing wild geese.

What are your responsibilities as reference librarian?

We answer people’s questions, whether they call on the phone or if they walk up to us looking for a book or information or a phone number, we have to find the answers to their questions.

Do you ever get stumped?

Once in a while. Questions that can’t be answered here we do refer to a reference center in Oroville where they have access to a wider range of materials and they will track down almost anything.

In the day of search engines and Google, have you noticed a drop of in business?

Yeah, yeah. A lot of people can answer their own questions by Googling them. And that is an awful lot of what we do.

It’s nice to have that human contact, isn’t it? Google is kind of impersonal.

People either don’t know how to search on the Net, aren’t familiar with computers, don’t want to bother with it, or simply aren’t finding the answer. I do get a lot of people who try the Internet and the answer is there but they can’t find it because they don’t have the search skills.

You must get a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping people, guiding them with their questions, answering their questions.

Sure. Yeah. And we deal with everyone from elementary school students to senior citizens.

Do kids still come in for school reports?

Yes. All the time. Many teachers require they get their information from different sources. Teachers are getting more savvy toward this. They don’t want students doing all their research on the Internet. They want them to use print materials and so very often they will tell their students, “You have to have three sources; one of them has to be from print.” We also get a whole lot of Chico State and Butte College students. Especially Butte College students who don’t want to drive to Butte College. We do the best we can for them, but we’re not really aimed at that college academic audience.