Yes, it is the job of a professor to help students. So why are they so cranky when you ask them for help? The short answer is bitterness. But seriously….
Most professors are approachable and willing to help. But every now and then, you might unknowingly frustrate or exasperate them because your academic experiences are different than theirs when they were your age. An example: One of the great stressors of academic life is writing a term paper or essay. Conducting research for papers is often frustrating. It requires a lot of reading, persistence, creativity, organization, and no small amount of luck. And that doesn’t include the process of trying to figure out what you want to write about.
However, you won’t get much sympathy from us because, even for relatively young professors, literature searches and research used to be much more difficult. Back in my day, there was no Google, no Wikipedia, no on-line library search engines, no .pdf documents. We had to photocopy all book chapters and journal articles to use the material outside of the library. We even had to investigate large volumes of encyclopedic directories just to find the specific journal an article was in.
Back in my day, we had this revolutionary technology called a CD-ROM. Our university just got PsycLIT, a searchable database on one CD-ROM…for the entire university…that you could only use 2 hours at a time before returning it so the next person on the waiting list could use it…making sure to put your own name on the waiting list again for the umpteenth time. I could go on but you get my point and I’m sounding like a cranky old man.
This is how your professor grew up; the professor you are now telling about your frustration trying to find journal articles after a day of internet searches. Whippersnapper.