Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Scared to approach the Reference Desk?

I had flashbacks this week to a moment when I was an undergraduate at my college library doing research. I was confused, yet I was too embarrassed to approach the Reference Desk and admit I didn't know something. I remember wandering around the library looking for a particular source, not finding it, and then quietly leaving the library. I never asked for help.

At LCC Library, we do a lot to make ourselves approachable at the Reference desk, the pink "Please Bother Me" sign, our nameplates with photos... Now students can IM a librarian or use our Wimzi on the Ask a Librarian page. We have even talked about the possibility of expanding our virtual presence to places like Facebook, but what about having a physical presence around campus?

I have been spending some of my breaks when I am on campus in the LSARC and am impressed by the tutors available for various subjects. Maybe we could have a table in the LSARC with a sign for "Research Help" or "Ask a Librarian." A librarian could be there on duty with a laptop. Or we could have a librarian on duty in Kennedy Cafeteria or in the Writing Center or in the Language Skills Lab.

A few weeks ago, a writing instructor mentioned that some students are reluctant to ask for help at the Reference Desk. She suggested having the Instruction Room open at times that many writing classes are scheduled during the weeks that students have conferences. A librarian could be on call in the Instruction Room for research help.

I know that we are already busy staffing the Reference Desk in the library. But, we could try the Instruction Room Reference idea and Roving Reference out next semester on a trial basis, just a few hours a week. In the LSARC, who knows, tutors (who I believe are instructors) might even talk with us about their students' research needs.

By the same token, it would be great to have a stronger presence from Tutoring Services and the Writing Center in the library, beyond just having the brochures available to pass out. I used to work as a tutor in a Writing Center that was located in the library and much of what we do is similar. Last spring Tutoring Services offered a series of workshops in the library, and we referred many students who came to the reference desk to these workshops. What about having more joint programs between these different service areas?

We need to find new ways to make students aware of the strong support services available to them here at LCC.


  1. I agree that by making LCC Librarians more visible on campus would be one way we can champion "information literacy." But can we create more physical Library reference assistance with the current staff? Any other thoughts?

  2. Personally, I feel like I could make time for this. It is important, it is a good idea, it does not have to be time intensive. It is integral to building relationships in an informal capacity.

    We do need to make choices in how we spend our time, but we also need to keep the college at large informed so that they understand the value of our services. We need to increase the value of our services. This seems to me to be one of the ways, and a easily visible way, that we could accomplish this.

  3. My hand is raised in favor of what you've suggested, Suzanne. I'd like to go to the West Campus once a wk for a few hrs to offer Reference service there too. So many great ideas, so many great services and resources, but too few LCC librarians I'm afraid.