The evolving reference desk

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An article in last week’s Publisher’s Weekly by Brian Kenney describes the development of the reference desk of the public library from pre-internet days to the present day. Kenney claims that the reference desk has disappeared “like Jimmy Hoffa” and libraries and library schools are still trying to figure out the best ways to evolve to serve our patrons best.

“Today’s reference user wants help doing things rather than finding things” is the article’s subtitle (click here to read entire article).

Kenney is at the White Plains Public Library and explains how libraries are experimenting with different physical designs of the reference desk as well as job descriptions. Is a reference librarian without a desk a possibility? Should they wander the library “trying to drum up business?”  As an example, he bought only one reference book for White Plains in the last three years. The good news is that library usage is growing (“about 20% a year”). However, the ways people need reference help are changing. Technology needs are still big as requests for assistance from reference. Ultimately, the author says it’s a conversation that needs to that needs to be examined as libraries move into the future.

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