Daily Archives: April 17, 2007

Re: Reference

Scott Carlson has an interesting piece in the Chron on the battle of the reference desk – should it still be a place that offers face-to-face, point of need assistance, or should it be a virtual contact, through texting, chatting, and whatever new ways people prefer to communicate?

The ACRL session already covered here gets some play, pointing out that feelings run high and an either/or response can cause real friction. It reminds me of a now-pointless canard: Should we promote use the Internet or of libraries? Obviously, both, and both are converging.

At Gustavus, our students have so far voted with their feet, not their thumbs. They prefer face-to-face, and they attend a residential college expecting it. We chat, too, using their IM client or a chat box right on our Web page, and that’s handy. If I could figure out how to make my thumbs work and how I’d pay for all those text messages, I’d probably do reference that way, as well. But since I carry my wireless laptop to the reference desk, I don’t feel I’m wasting time. I’m just as mobile as our students and get plenty of work done while being visible and available. And being there when they have a question is big for our students – whether the question is big or small, it’s important to them.