Today in Perkins we are testing some software for keeping Reference statistics. Why? It’s helpful to plan for staffing–how many questions, from which kinds of patrons, what types of questions (from staplerology to ‘jumpstart my thesis’).
But what I really want to get at is the human element. There is talk of the future irrelevance of a Reference Desk, if not the actual Reference librarians, whose minds presumably will be accessible in other modes and places. Here’s an excerpt from the TAIGA Forum Provocative Statements:
Within the next five years…There will no longer be reference desks or reference offices in the library. Instead, public services staff offices will be located outside the physical library.
Or, to expand on this line of reasoning:
If the truth be known, as a place to get help in finding information, the reference desk was never a good idea. A reference librarian standing behind a desk waiting for someone to say, “I can’t find what I’m looking for; can you help?” might be justifiable if, as is the case with other service professionals, that librarian was the reason the person came to the building to begin with. But reference librarians have not served so central a function. They have stood ready to help “just in case”-just in case navigating the building isn’t clear, just in case the catalog doesn’t produce wanted results, just in case the collections seem not to contain the desired material or information. In short, reference service-in particular point-of-need reference service-has been an afterthought, something to be considered after the building’s signage or the finding aids or the collections fail the user.
(Anne G. Lipow, “Point of Need Reference Service: no longer an afterthought,” in ALA-RUSA The Future of Reference Services Papers)
Do you come to the Reference Desk for f2f consultation with a librarian? Why or why not?