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

Colin Rea crea at fernridgelibrary.org
Wed Aug 24 10:35:13 PDT 2011


We just completed a renovation that was planned for in 2006.  We added a
new desk, originally called a reference desk in the architectural plans.
When we begin to staff it in September, it will open as the 'Answer
Desk.'  It's a much clearer representation of the service we will
provide there.  I'm also going to run with the slogan 'Ask and we shall


Colin M. Rea

Director, Fern Ridge Library District

PO Box 397

88026 Territorial Road

Veneta, OR 97487

541.935.7512     fax 541.935.8013


5985463>    <http://twitter.com/fernridgelib> 



From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
[mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Caleb
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:02 AM
To: Libs-Or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] What are reference desks called these days?



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 category. 

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
www.oregonlibraries.net <http://www.oregonlibraries.net/> 

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

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:


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

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