Last Thursday we had a lively discussion about reference services, more specifically alternative reference. At first we had a little discussion about the definition of alternative reference and what really is alternative. Is eliminating the reference desk alternative? Is embedded librarianship a type of alternative reference. Lots of people discussed their ideas and I think the term alternative reference for this chat pretty much determined to be “anything outside what has been viewed as traditional roles for reference services” and included things people are doing different with reference.
(Please let me know if I misunderstood any tweets, I am using the transcript along with my memory to provide this brief synopsis.)
@Eagledawg mentioned how they used to have on call reference hours but have moved to chat based reference & consult appointments. She also mentioned how they are working on providing reference based on the READ scale http://t.co/dqhA3Vel.
Some like @CarolinaFan1982 has done such a great job extending his reference services outside of the traditional library that he cannot even be on Twitter without the nurses he serves asking him questions. But some like @hurstej find their users just aren’t interested in connecting/asking questions via social media.
Much discussion (at least to me) seem to center around abandoning the reference desk and going to something like office hours, consultation services, etc. There were a few of us like @blevinsa and me who spoke up about doing reference (as well as other things) at our single service desk.
@BerrymanD and I had a very lively discussion about the importance of the reference desk. I believe in my institution it is still very important. In his institution it is not used as much. During the discussion I often referred to the reference desk at our institution. That was sort of misleading. We have a single service desk from where patrons can ask reference questions, check out a book, or ask for the bathroom. In my institution we all call it the reference desk. I don’t think we ever considered it anything more or less than a reference desk. So part of the reason our desk is so busy is that it is the ONLY desk in the library you can ask questions or get service from. I think if we had a reference desk and circulation desk our reference desk would be slow.
It was also mentioned that reference is reference and one doesn’t need a desk to provide it. That brought up the topic of roving reference and whether anybody was doing that with mobile devices, which would make that ideal.
All in all it was a great discussion. Very interesting. I admit I got a bit too focused on the reference desk part of the discussion. I have a lot thoughts and opinions on the benefits of having a single service desk and every library staff member staffing it at times. I think that makes an excellent post for next week. So sometime next week I will write about the things I see at our single service desk and why I think it works for us.
In the mean time, don’t forget about tonight’s #medlibs chat 9pm est. It is on embedded librarianship. I hope to see you online. If you are new, don’t sweat it, just say hi and lurk for a bit. We are a great group and willing to help you out if you are hesitant with the technology.