Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Reference Desk

winter morning sunrise

This may sound strange coming from a librarian, but I have an uneasy relationship with the reference desk. I go back and forth (basically depending on the day) about whether or not it's a worthwhile way to spend my time, and whether or not we actually need a reference desk. On days when I'm really busy with reference questions, I'm happy to be out there instead of back in my office. On other days, when it feels like all I do is demonstrate how the printer operates (see a very well-written ACRLog post by a fellow First Year Academic Librarian about the angst this causes), I think my time would be better spent elsewhere.

One problem is that I have trouble getting other work done at the reference desk, because I want to appear completely available, and this involves being aware of the surroundings instead of being focused on the computer. So when not engaged with helping a student, I do a lot of reading and responding to emails while I'm at the desk -- tasks I can set down in an instant and go back to later. At my community college library, I'd truly rather be less productive than seem at all irritated by students interrupting -- these students often do not have much confidence in their academic skills to begin with.

Which leads me to a positive aspect of staffing the reference desk: How many other professional services are quite so visible and accessible? Sometimes I wonder if it's even an expectation people have any more. What? There's a person with a master's degree who has an amazing ability to track down and find whatever we're looking for, and she/he is just sitting right there?

Ultimately I'm in favor of the reference desk, though, because I am unable to put forth an alternative service point that is as immediate, direct, and personal. Until the day comes when a superior option emerges, I'll continue to be a supporter.

No comments:

Post a Comment