One of the things that annoys me most at work is when someone stands a million miles from the desk and looks the other way, waiting for one of us to look up and ask if they need something. I’m there to help. It’s my job and I’m happy to do it. But walk right up to the desk and tell me why you’re there. Tell me everything that you need as clearly as possible.
This is not a real critique of library patrons. I know that academic libraries can be intimidating and I have a lifetime’s experience as a shy person. It’s more that my experience as the person there to offer assistance has taught me how to ask for help.
Do it as directly as you possibly can. If you know what you need, then don’t make the other person guess. Asking for help is hard, because it always feels like such an imposition, but it’s more respectful of someone else’s time if you just say what you need instead of making them tease it out of you while you apologize for the inconvenience. Ask for everything up front, so that they have the full picture of what you need. Do everything you can so that when you ask for help, you’re actually in the position to receive it. If you don’t know exactly what you need, then maybe you just need to talk it out, and that is a specific enough request.
Asking for help is always an act of courage for me, so I feel like I might as well make it easier on myself and get the best help possible by just saying exactly what I need. Even if I have to blurt it out incomprehensibly and then repeat myself.