"The famous dictum, 'Speech was given to man to conceal thought,' is often forcibly brought into mind by the ingenuity with which visitors of the reference-room succeed in hiding their desires behind their questions" (Woodruff, 1897).Surely this can't be so! When a person goes to a library, don't they want help? Don't they want information? Why are people so difficult?
The most salient features of the reference interview are "mind-reading and cross examination" (Wyer, 1930).
"You see they will choke to death and die with the secret in them rather than tell you what they want" (Wyer).
The problem comes down to 'how one person tries to find out what another person wants to know, when the latter cannot describe his need precisely" (Taylor, 1968). I guess you can think about it like a word. You know when you are trying to think of a word? You practically end up playing charades with people, trying to describe the thought or idea behind this word, trying to define it, but you don't really know or can't remember. And it's hard to describe a vague thought or feeling, and sometimes the descriptions you come up with have nothing to do with what the word really is.
So that's point one: people want information about something they can't even begin to describe.
But there is more than that.
Often, people will have looked everywhere themselves before they come to the librarian. When they come to the librarian to ask for help, they are admitting they failed, they couldn't find the information, they aren't good enough. (A bit exaggerated it would seem, but some people feel this way.) A lot of people hate to ask for help!
People often don't realize that finding information is a librarian's job. So they feel like they can't ask because they'd be bothering the librarian, or asking a dumb question, or it's not worthwhile, etc. (Unfortunately there are some librarians who make you feel this way - they're bad!)
Some people are shy. They are embarrassed about whatever they need to know and they'd rather muddle through on their own than ask someone.
Sometimes people direct their question to the librarian based on what sources of information they think are available. Say a person really wants to find out where Lincoln was born. They figure the answer will be in a book (undoubtedly) so they'll just ask for a book on presidents, or maybe even a book on Lincoln. Then they'll have to skim through the book till they find the answer. There are MUCH BETTER ways to find information that librarians know all about.
So just get over it and tell the librarian what you really want!! Geesh! =)