librarian call buttons

One of the things we’re doing in the class I’m teaching right now for the iSchool at the University of Washington is reconsidering how libraries do Reference work. I asked students to brainstorm about the topic and thought this idea from Lianne Ho was pretty neat. I’d link to her class blog but it is behind UW authentication.

What about the service expectations at places like restaurants? Restaurant patrons don’t just prefer to be approached by the wait staff–they expect it! Especially in more formal establishments, it’s expected that wait staff will monitor patrons to provide immediate or even preemptive service (ex. refilling water glasses before they’re empty).

Some establishments (generally more casual ones) have the equivalent of an attendant call button at tables. Patrons will signal that they need something and (ideally) someone will come by within a minute or two.

I’m intrigued with the idea of using a similar model at the library. What if there was a way for patrons to page the librarian and get near-immediate assistance where they are? Perhaps there could be an icon on the computer desktop, for patrons who need assistance at one of the workstations. There could also be “call” buttons at the end of the stacks.

5 thoughts on “librarian call buttons”

  1. That’s a cool idea. I think you could set that up through a Vocera system.

    I would bet most staff would be against it as patrons may abuse it or not take a moment to figure something out themselves, they would just press the easy button. :)

  2. Not a bad idea, but then one might argue that many libraries have done one better (or equivalent, anyway), and made it super-easy/obvious to use virtual reference from the library website.

    Granted, providing and receiving detailed information over online chat is far inferior to RL chat, but perhaps this is a slight deterrent to using the ‘easy’ button as the above commenter mentioned.

  3. Our Business Library at the University of Calgary is doing exactly that. In all the computer labs in the B-school the desktop includes an icon that launches to their Meebo IM page with the invitation to “page a librarian” who will actually walk to your workstation anywhere in the building to offer assistance should you decide not to try to work it all out via IM.

  4. I think patrons would use IM as the easy button just as well.

    We have our virtual reference page chat page on our drop page. If you perform a search and nothing comes up, or if you are not finding what you need, the button is right there.

    Unfortunately, many of the transactions seem to stem from laziness rather than assistance with research.

    Any similar experiences with virtual reference?

  5. I work at a large public library which has 1-2 reference desks on each floor. Each room is so large, however, that it can be quite a trek from one end of the stacks to to a desk if you have a question. I have often thought that installing telephones (much like the ones at say, Fred Meyer) throughout the stacks which a patron could just pick up and instantly be connected to a reference librarian on-duty would be a great idea.

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