Not Hidden Behind the Desk 6

library patron? no., originally uploaded by aaron schmidt.

Aaron writes:

a library employee. everyone i saw minus one was on the OUTSIDE of these desks, not hidden behind.

I am so happy to see this. It’s a perfect example of the evolving library and evolving reference desk. Three cheers to this forward thinking library in Holland.

I’m reminded of recent retail experiences where I stood beside the person helping me as we designed our new front door. I’m reminded of checking into a hotel where the check in desk had been replaces with individual kiosks/stations, where I stood beside the hotel staff checking me in.

Have you tried this in your libraries? Do you want to? Is there resistance to new ways of thinking? Have you “always done it this way.” Look to other countries folks. Look to other businesses and organizations.

Please comment if you are trying this user-friendly, open model at your library.

6 thoughts on “Not Hidden Behind the Desk

  • Rami

    As a customer, I am quite comfortable with the salesperson or hotel desk clerk being behind the desk. As a librarian, I’d be really uncomfortable with my back to approaching patrons. Flipping to a new side of the desk doesn’t seem that big of a deal or that necessary to me. Since I’m a new librarian, too, this probably isn’t a case of “it’s always been done it this way” for me.

  • Michael

    I agree with Rami, having my back to patrons would be kind of weird. It also means that playing the newest Tower Defense game on would be a bit more out of the question.

    However, I find that my *best* patron interactions occur when instead of going through the motions at the desk (we have a 2nd monitor on the patron side that can mirror the librarian one) I go to where the patron is working and work side-by-side in their environment. So maybe not an official desk to work side-by-side, but an official desk to ask for help from which you go with the patron to a workstation to work together?

  • Deborah

    The 2nd monitor sounds cool – we have a monitor that can be rotated, so we can turn it to the user to show them their due dates or work through a catalogue search with them or whatever; or conversely can be turned back if we’re looking at sensitive information or lolcat sites.

    Our desk is quite a barrier at the moment. We may or may not have renovations sometime in the next few years, but if we do then the desk is one of the things we’re going to look at. <waves hands vaguely>

    But on our “Library on Location” trials, where we take a laptop and some books and movies out to student areas, we end up working side-by-side with users by default – the whole thing is a nice informal experience and the users seem to really appreciate that.

  • Edo

    Aaron made this picture in the new and modern library of Amsterdam. In Holland it becomes more and more common pratice to get rid of the barrier of the informationdesk. The employees are walking around, more pro-active towards their patrons. We call them “Wimmers” freely translated as “Walking Information employees”. Off course it depends on the way the employees act in this new approach and the way they can be recognized by the public, but experiences are quite good. The employees mostly use computers behind which they can stand upright. In this way they can engage their patrons in showing them how to solve their questions.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like it when people are behind me and I don’t like it when people are standing or sitting uncomfortably when they are helping me out. It makes me uneasy, like they are ready to dash out of the building at any moment, as if they know there is something catastrophic about to happen and they have one foot pointed towards the emergency exit.

    This open-pod-furniture-in-libraries fad is a style the retail industry has been using forever, and having been a salesperson and a shopper, I can say that it is annoying from both perspectives.

    I feel so much more comfortable when others are comfortable.

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