“Gone fishin’, back tomorrow.”

What’s a patron to do after the reference librarian checks out for the night?

When thinking about reference services, I default to the active/passive binary (or, if you don’t like the connotations therein, how about the immediate impact/legacy binary?).

A fairly shallow definition:

  • Active (immediate impact) reference: helping patrons at the desk; wandering the stacks; answering instant messages, emails and phone calls. Usually one-on-one interactions that leave no trace.
  • Passive (legacy) reference: creating research guides, finding aids, and informative ‘how to’s. This information lives forever!

Lately, I’ve been fixated on passive reference services, and have come across some really great ideas for when the desk is empty…

1. Digital signage: Computers never sleep, and much of the directional information provided at the desk can be replicated on digital signs. Library hours, policies, staff profiles could all be part of a slide show.

2. Great library guides: A general guide to the library, in print or online, can be a very helpful start. Take a look at McPherson’s Miller Library Guide (zombie alert!)

3. Topic-specific research guides: Online or in print, research guides with references to items in the collection are always appreciated. A service like LibGuides is an easy way to add multimedia resources for your patrons.

4. QR codes: One of the new kids on the block, QR codes aren’t for everybody and depend on the patron’s smart phone to work. From floor maps to the stacks, QR codes can link to audiovisual materials to help the patron navigate the library. CALI is putting together ‘LibTours,’ a series of QR-coded minitutorials that can be used throughout member libraries. But, aside from the CALI series, you can easily generate QR codes online and link it to your own content. My fellow blogger Jason recently posted about QR codes here.

This just scratches the surface of what’s out there; the restraints of budgets and time have fostered much creativity in libraries. Please share what works for your library when the desk is dark!

This entry was posted in Customer Service, Library Displays, Inspiration and Design Ideas, Patron Services, Reference Services and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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