Are Reference Desks Dying Out?

“Are Reference Desks Dying Out?” is an interesting article besides the drama surrounding its interpretation of the Q&A session of an ACRL panel session. For the drama (and some further discussion of the important issues), see Reference Desk Backlash at Brian Mathews’ The Ubiquitous Librarian.

I’d like to mention two other bits in the article. One, it tells the story of University of California at Merced librarian Michelle Jacobs answering reference questions via SMS while she was in Baltimore for the ACRL conference. Neat. I’d like to hear more about that, in particular if they’re using some system or just her personal phone number.

The other good section is about the “Librarian With a Latte” program from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. What’s with Ann Arbor and library goodness, anyways?

With a laptop and a wireless connection, he sets aside time to sit at a table at a popular Ann Arbor coffee shop and invites students to drop by for help. Dozens of students showed up for one of his recent sessions.

“‘Going to where students are seems to be a theme in social-networking discussions, and they mean virtually,” he says. “It’s equally important to go where they are physically.” The coffee-shop sessions help establish relationships with students that become online interactions later.


Incidentally, the article also has a funny quote from Derik Badman (that’s two posts in a row!) about his stapler, even though he spoke with the reporter at length about virtual reference.

7 thoughts on “Are Reference Desks Dying Out?”

  1. Reference Desks will last as long as we need an Information Counter. The notion in the article that only dull students stop by is absurd.

    That said, I love the Latte part! Oftentimes during finals week, you get librarians working 24/7 at the reference desk while all the action is over at the student cafeteria. It never dawns on them to set up shop where the customers are!

  2. I was at Michelle’s Cyper Zed Shed presentation at ACRL. She’s using a smartphone running Windows Mobile. I think she said it was the Cingular 8525. Sounded like the library is paying for the phone and service contract. She carries a collapsible Bluetooth keyboard along with the phone. This set up allows her to help students in the stacks without having to carry a laptop and also when meeting with students and faculty outside of the library. I have yet to blog about the Cyber Zed Shed sessions I attended. They were all very good.

  3. I have used a Moto Q SmartPhone the past year– helpful but I recommend a Trio. Or just a regular cellphone with unlimited txt– then you can forward your IM to mobile and help ppl at 11pm!

  4. We haven’t quite yet to reach that stage at the University of Calgary (I’m just hoping we can move to SMS) but we do have librarians doing ‘outreach’ in different ways. Some of the science librarians spend a couple hours a week in the science computer lab. I spend six hours a week in one of the faculties – this facilitates contact with both students and faculty. UofC set-up Take Your Place Something to take advantage of.

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