Revamping Reference at The User Experience

Aaron Schmidt writes:

Reference desks don’t have to be antagonistic. Boomerang-shaped desks with a computer monitor and an easily shared keyboard between two chairs set the stage for a collaborative interaction. Folding patrons into the research process acknowledges their contribution. This respectful gesture—and the other ways to consciously consider your reference setup—can ameliorate library anxiety and foster an engaging experience.

With the easy-to-use mobile computing options now available, roving reference makes more sense than ever. I spoke with Katherine Penner (Univ. of Manitoba’s Dafoe Lib.) and Martha Flotten (Multnomah Cty. Lib. [MCL]) about how they’ve experimented with Apple iPhones and iPads to deliver reference.

Flotten reports that they’re answering different types of questions away from the reference desk and that “librarians have mind-blowing reference tran sactions weekly,” as when one MCL librarian was able to engage a patron deeply by putting her in charge of navigating library resources through an iPhone. Penner notes that their mobile reference project has changed the way students communicate with librarians: they’re now more comfortable approaching librarians in the stacks. These devices signal cultural relevance, and we shouldn’t ignore the benefits of using tools that impress patrons.

Please read the whole piece and note Aaron’s citation of Mellon’s “Library Anxiety.”