Office debate over the "I don't know" statement. My boss believes that you should never tell a library member that under *any* circumstances; that you should say that you are going to find out, search somewhere, etc. I believe that you can say "I don't know" so long as you offer a plan/advice/solution as to remedy the situation. Thoughts?
Same as Chris....admitting I don't know sometimes can help me relate better to the patron. Then I can wow them with finding whatever it is they need :) - Hedgehog
When I started working here, I was supposed to tell the student workers (whom I train) that they were forbidden to say "I don't know." I called BS and went with your approach instead. Though I usually advise them to avoid it if they have a better way to say whatever it is. "That's a great question!" is a substitution I sometimes use myself. I think banning any particular phrase is a good way to get people to focus on scripts, and not empathetic thinking / the specifics of the human being in front of them. I do tell them they aren't allowed to STOP on "I don't know," or "No", but that's about it. - Marianne
I hate being strung along by someone who doesn't know but won't say so. - barbara fister
Me too. - Marianne
There are some questions that have no answer, and the patron wants to know that there are no answers, but they may not tell you that.... Is there anything on topic X because the person wants to write a doctoral thesis on X, or the person wants to make a patent on Y, and to make sure there is nothing already on Y. - Joe
Yeah, definitely siding with Marianne and Steve on this one. I admit to being flummoxed, confounded, stymied, and otherwise perplexed on a near-daily basis. If I were forbidden to use specific work-appropriate language in a public service setting, I'd have to think hard about how much the organization valued my professional judgement. - Catherine Pellegrino
And another piece of it is the intonation with which one says, "I don't know." I almost always utter it as though it were a gift, like, "wow, here's a new thing I can learn today - how cool is THAT?" Which makes me sound like a serious dork but doesn't convey anything like the conversation-ending "I dunno." - Catherine Pellegrino
Andy--your boss has been outvoted. Add my voice to the chorus. And I'm a boss. Seriously, I have a patron who calls with insane consumer questions that are unfindable all the time. She's a huge time suck, and I have no problem with me or staff spending a few minutes looking in Consumer Reports and doing some Googling, then saying, "I'm sorry, but we can't find any reliable information on that." - Rochelle *boom* Hartman
Another vote against your boss from me. I think it can be really liberating to admit that you don't know, but you're happy to help someone find the answer. It can be a great opportunity to show someone the process you use as a professional to find the answers to questions. - Katy S
when it comes to reference questions, in general, I don't know. In regards to library policy, I bloody well SHOULD know. In this latter case, the most I will admit to is, "I'll have to check on that." - DJF
Let me double check, I don't want to give you misinformation--is also one I rely on when it's something I should know but am not 100% sure on - Hedgehog
Shit, I say "I don't know" all the time. Some days I think if my co-workers wonder if I know anything. - John: Thread Killer
"Wow, that's a great question! I don't know, but let's see what we can find out!" I am with the rest of the commentariate here. - laura x
I always preface stuff I don't know with, "I don't know." But I always try to follow it with a suggestion about how to proceed. Sometimes, though, I've had to tell students, "That's a great idea, but I don't think anyone has actually collected the information. You could be the first." - Anne Graham
Same here. I say I don't know but... Then we come up with ideas. - bentley
When clerks (not library clerks) start tapdancing around their non-answer, I tell them that it's okay to say they don't know. Ooh, some people don't like that! One lady crossed her arms angrily, said "I don't know" very firmly, and turned her back on me. - bentley
While I may offer to look into things, or try to find someone who does, if I do not know, I have no problem (or insecurity issues) admitting I may not know something. - Angel R. Rivera