My RIOT pulled me in a couple different directions. In light of our new single service point plans, I started out looking for information about how other libraries handle the transition. The best examples did away with a desk altogether because it was “a forbidding counterstyle barrier that formalised the traditional expert/student relationship” (Ellis & Phillips, 2012). Instead, a lot of libraries are opting for collaborative learning spaces where librarians work side-by-side with students (see also Spencer, 2007).
Then I started thinking about the types of questions we answer at the desk. There are some that I answer several times of day, like, where is the stapler? or, how do I print? in addition to questions about specific book locations. I do not see these as teaching moments and I do not think that users want to ask me these questions. This got me thinking about using smartphone apps in libraries that could cover some of this basic information, a topic covered in this article by Bishop out of the University of Kentucky, wherein the author analyzed reference questions out of 15 service points, including chat, email and phone, on campus over the course of 3 years to find that 77% of questions were wayfinding (where is 1.339?) or attribute questions (what are your Spring Break hours?). The author also discussed using the geospatial web to allow students to find the nearest color printer, for example, no matter which library they are in. This could also work for call numbers, but I think we should get bookbot instead.
I could not find many examples of my specific vision. NCSU’s mobile site comes closest, and I know some of us have talked about how cool their webcam to the coffee shop line is. Being able to join the computer queue or to see the KIC scanner queues, or being able to reserve a study room on your phone would all be beloved conveniences for our students.
In any case, I wouldn’t mind getting a report on our reference transactions similar to the one given in this article, or, better yet, I would be interested in trying SUMA, the ipad app that NCSU developed to gather data at libraries. This tool seems to open up the possibility of creating a culture in which we are all diligent and invested in collecting meaningful statistics and one in which we all share and are all informed of the data so that we can all move forward in making decisions on things like space design, technology purchases and service design based on that data.
UT students may already be familiar with the design of this app, which includes a map, a mobile tour, a calendar and a newsfeed. Some students at the ischool here developed an app for searching the catalog, but I do not see a mention of incorporating wayfinding into the app to help students physically locate a book. I think the call number links to that general page we have about finding books in the libraries with the stack guides (Broussard et al, 2011).
So, taking this all into consideration, I guess I want to know some thoughts on how your service desk handles “wayfinding and attribute” questions. Do you think a mobile app would be the answer, or would you be scared to lose the face-to-face time with students and therefore the opportunity to open the conversation into their research or to do a reference interview?
What are your favorite reference experiences like? What, if anything, stands in the way of them happening? What facilitates them?
Do you feel like you are informed about how students use the reference desk at your library? What would be helpful to know so that you can improve services?
Broussard, R., Zhou, Y. and Lease, M. (2010), University of Texas mobile library search. Proc. Am. Soc. Info. Sci. Tech., 47: 1–2. doi: 10.1002/meet.14504701385 (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/meet.14504701385/full)
Bradley Wade Bishop, Analysis of reference transactions to inform library applications (apps), Library & Information Science Research, Volume 34, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 265-270, ISSN 0740-8188, 10.1016/j.lisr.2012.06.001.
Jenny Ellis and Andrea Phillips, “Redefining the Service Experience: Forging Collaboration Between Librarians and Students.” Proceedings of the IATUL Conferences. Paper 5.
Mary Ellen Spencer, (2007) “The state-of-the-art: NCSU Libraries Learning Commons”, Reference Services Review, Vol. 35 Iss: 2, pp.310 – 321. DOI: 10.1108/00907320710749218