September 15, 2006

Carnival of the InfoScience #53: Naked Reference

As usual, lots of good stuff at this week's Carnival.

The link that caught my eye this time around was a from Steve Backs from Blog about Libraries about a new thing that his institution is trying: Naked reference. Not reference with no clothes on, but reference with no distractions. The idea is that when someone sits at the ref desk they are not to bring any other work with them: no journals, no documents to touch up, no emails to send. A very interesting idea on a topic that has long interested me. How to maximize the our perceived availability at the desk. We've all had students come to the desk while we're doing something and saying, "Sorry to bother you, but..." How many potential reference transactions are never started because the students are too shy to bother us? On the other hand, there are certainly times of the day and periods of the school year when there just isn't a whole lot of interacting going on; it seems a bit of a waste of time to sit there and just be bored waiting for the 2 or 3 questions you're going to get in an hour.

No doubt, a controversial project and I look forward to hearing more about the results. To get an idea of the controversy, I quote the first two comments from the post:

This is an excellent initiative, Steve! Have you also thought about asking staff to jot down a few thoughts/observations/notes after each shift that you could talk about as a group after the end of "Naked Reference"? I wonder if by writing thoughts down so they're not forgotten, you'll uncover some interesting service opportunities. Sounds like great marketing research of sorts and I look forward to reading about your results (oh, and I'm going to participate too!) :-)
# posted by Jill : 5:06 PM

this idea is anti-intellectual, managerial crap. steve, you sit at the desk doing nothing, but with some dumbass smile on your face, waiting for the next blessed patron. i'm not selling tickets to the show. i'm an information provider. i'm a librarian. i develop my skills by reading and poking around, and doing whatever work i believe i need to do. the reference desk is the perfect place for this activity. i will never work for or with you.
# posted by Anonymous : 1:32 PM
Diametrically opposed, yet both have valid points. It would be an interesting experiment to try. (Once again, easy for me to muse about interesting public service experiments while on sabbatical.)

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