[Libs-Or] What are reference desks called these days?: Mobile Means Many Things

Laura Orr Laura_Orr at co.washington.or.us
Wed Aug 24 15:42:40 PDT 2011

This is wonderful.  It's like that very funny U of O librarian way back
when who explained that the a librarian "taxonomist" was a male
cataloger - LOL!  (By the way, Hope, what's a "Research Information
I've often thought we should keep moving along the proverbial
library-service spectrum and take "reference" even further, i.e. out of
the library, literally, not just via e-gadget.  That is, my next "job"
would be to fit out (aka pimp) a book cart to be a real mobile law
library and set up shop outside a courthouse with a couple sets of
necessary books and a computer - and a law librarian or two (and a
coffee pot!).  Of course I would skip the What to call the "Reference
Desk" dilemma and just have a sign that reads:
A Buck a Cup and a Legal Research Question (a food for thought cart)
I worked on a bookmobile decades ago, and come from a city of food carts
(Philadelphia) so maybe that's why the outdoor book cart idea works for
me.  We didn't have a reference desk on the bookmobile - just a counter
near the driver's seat.  We had such fun and the patrons loved it.
By the way, most of the library usability surveys I see seem to query
library patrons or students about library terminology.  There must be
some studies out there that query the non-patron or the non-student on
what would make a library not so intimidating when walking into one (or
happening upon the library's webpage), the way I feel when I walk into
Home Depot.  Did I miss a study like that in Kupersmith's list?  A lot
of people understand "Customer Service" counters.  It's not pretty, or
dreamy (a perfect descriptor for Answerland!), but don't most people
know what "Customer Service" means whether they are at the DMV or
Nordstrom's or Home Depot or a library, of any kind?
I do still call library patrons "patrons" but would be quite happy to
call them/us "customers" if it makes the library more familiar and
welcoming to more people, especially the law library, where you have to
be really, really brave to visit and I don't want to set up any more
barriers than already exist.
Laura J. Orr
Law Librarian
Washington County Law Library
111 NE Lincoln St
Hillsboro, OR 97124
Phone: 503-846-8880
Email: lawlibrary at co.washington.or.us
URL: http://www.co.washington.or.us/lawlibrary
Oregon Legal Research Blog: http://oregonlegalresearch.blogspot.com/


	From: Caleb Tucker-Raymond [mailto:calebt at multcolib.org] 
	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
	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:

	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> 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:
		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
		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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