[Libs-Or] What are reference desks called these days?

Caleb Tucker-Raymond calebt at multcolib.org
Wed Aug 24 10:02:08 PDT 2011


I think it depends on what you think the reference desk is for.

Certainly, there are library patrons who think of reference service the way
libraries often do: as the best place to go to get either an authoritative
answer to a quick question or a comprehensive tour of a subject through
library resources and beyond. But I don't think most patrons fall into this

We're working on coming up with a new name for L-net, our statewide
reference service, and run into this same problem. Ideally we want a name
somewhere between the literal "ask a librarian" and the dreamy "answerland",
but the name should describe the service, and for many people, "reference"
doesn't convey a thing.

(You may enjoy John Kupersmith's "Library terms that users understand", a
summary of 51 usability studies: http://www.jkup.net/terms.html.)

We ask patrons for feedback at the end of our L-net sessions, and in order
to get a sense of how patrons describe their experience wit the service, I
made a word-cloud out of their comments (
http://www.oregonlibraries.net/system/files/comments.png). The words that
jump out that librarians don't often use to describe reference service
"help" and "helpful".

So patrons come to us for help instead of for reference service. Good enough
for me!

I don't know what we should call reference desks, but "information commons"
seems as good a place to start as any. For me, the important thing is to
*position* ourselves to give friendly and helpful service, to act as
patrons' partners in discovery rather than as authorities and
gatekeepers. If we have more opportunities to give them reference service
and knock their socks off, all the better.

Caleb Tucker-Raymond

Statewide Reference Service Coordinator
Multnomah County Library
(503) 988-5438
calebt at multco.us

On Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 6:05 PM, Hope Leman <hleman at samhealth.org> wrote:

> Hi, all. I am just curious as to whether it is a librarian-led movement or
> pressure from non-librarians to rename what used to be reference desks. I
> just called the called the Oregon State University Valley Library to find
> out its summer hours after being confused by the wording on the Web site:
> http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/hours
> which said "Learning Commons Information Desk." As a patron, I got very
> befuddled and asked, "Is this what used to be the reference desk?" I wonder
> if other patrons are equally confused by these terms.
> Hope Leman, MLIS
> Research Information Technologist
> Center for Health Research and Quality
> Samaritan Health Services
> 815 NW 9th Street
> Corvallis, OR 97330
> (541) 768-5712
> Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail message, including any attachments, is
> for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential
> and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or
> distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please
> contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original
> message.
> _____________________________________________________
> Libs-Or mailing list
> Libs-Or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
> http://listsmart.osl.state.or.us/mailman/listinfo/libs-or
> Hosted by the Oregon State Library. The Library is not responsible for
> content.
> Questions related to message content should be directed to list owner(s) or
> the sender of the message, by phone or email.
> Technical questions? Call 503-378-8800.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://omls.oregon.gov/pipermail/libs-or/attachments/20110824/c36d04cb/attachment.html>

More information about the Libs-Or mailing list