With a little reflection, most librarians can recall the excitement, anticipation, and fear that filled their early days at the reference desk:
“What will people ask me?”
“What if I don’t know how to help someone?”
“What do I need to do to be successful?”
Many librarians first experienced this emotional turbulence while working as graduate assistants (GAs) in academic library reference departments. Although demanding, working as a reference graduate assistant yields many benefits. An assistantship introduces participants to basics of reference librarianship like customer service, search techniques, and teamwork. Assistantships also help students get their foot in the door of the profession by giving them practical experience that can boost their employment prospects. Furthermore, participants profit greatly from networking with librarians who can offer guidance and encouragement. In view of the potential rewards and challenges of assistantships, we seek to provide current GAs with practical advice that can turn their assistantships into a successful debut into the field of reference.