I read an interesting blog post earlier today from Andy Burkhardt
who wrote a guest post for ACRLog titled Don't Make It Easy For Them
(read it - it's not too long). It really struck a chord with me - one of the bugbears in my previous job was when colleagues (in my opinion) spoonfed students. I shared the post on Twitter and an interesting discussion began about whether or not we, as librarians, should make it easy for students (I'm referring to students but the same applies to most library user groups).
My personal view is reflected in my comment on the blog post (currently in the moderation queue):
I agree with the idea that information literacy sessions can be more rewarding both for the students and the teacher if students are able to discover the tools for themselves, however think some initial guidance is needed (perhaps which databases to use and how to get to them). This method of teaching is also intensive and therefore often needs more than one member of staff to support the session as students explore. It’s certainly my preferred method of teaching though; I found many students learnt more this way.
I also agree with your point about the reference desk, I see the role of a librarian as one who can show people how to find the information for themselves, therefore empowering them to do it in future. Having said that, many of the students I encountered on an enquiry desk didn’t want that – they see the librarian as a resource to utilise to get you your research. They pay their fees and expect us to offer a service – doing their research for them. It’s a difficult thing to address. I always took the approach that I would try to show them how to do something, but I had some colleagues who would just do it for them. Some students preferred learning to do it for themselves, others just wanted us to do it for them and found my approach frustrating.
I think a balance is needed but it can be difficult to know what is best and I think this probably changes depending on the situation and the persons involved.