Returning to the reference desk this Fall semester has been interesting. One of the definitions of “reference desk” is a place where people come to get assistance with using library resources. I have maybe answered two reference inquiries since working at the physical desk. The interactions with students have been directional in nature or information technology (IT) related. Furthermore, I see why many academic librarians no longer sit at the desk. In this blog post, I will be discussing how I had to shift my idea of my purpose for being at the reference desk.
Working Through the Changes
Before returning to the physical space of the library, I had time to reflect and strategize what I would do when I worked at the reference desk. I knew that I wouldn’t bring any “work” to the desk to be alert and welcoming to students that make their way to the desk. Since most of the questions that are asked are directional and IT-related, this has been my opportunity to understand how the physical space of the library is utilized. Many things have changed since the pandemic started. For instance, we had an IT help desk on the first floor of the library, but due to funding, the desk had to be moved downstairs because they don’t have as many student workers. As a result, we are assisting students with those basic IT questions.
Quality Time with Students
I take the time at the desk as an opportunity to get to know students. During one of my conversations with a student, I found out that she graduated from my nephew’s high school. Also, this is an opportunity to see how students are using the library space so that if changes or improvements need to be made, I can provide that input. Some students are sent to the library to do a “library scavenger hunt” type of assignment, which has been fun to see them complete. In addition, it is excellent to assist them and see how much I know about the library that I work at.
Working Outside of My Office
Honestly, I thought I would be out of my office space more, but now that I have my own comfortable office space, I like working in it. Therefore, working at the reference desk forces me to get out of my office. If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would like the idea even more, but I still like the idea of getting out of my silo to interact with people.
The reference desk is used differently than in past years, and some academic libraries have dismantled their desks to create something new. Hopefully, this blog post has highlighted some of the positive aspects of working at the reference desk for those who are sitting at it.