The Patron Services Committee or My Obsession with Trashcans, Step stools, and Staplers

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post from Jessica Randall Panella. Jessica is the Head of Access Services at the University of Connecticut Law Library. As Head of Access Services, she  oversees operations of the Access Services Department which includes the main desk, reserve operations, stacks management, continuations management and interlibrary loan. Jessica is a graduate of  Drexel University (MSLIS) and UConn (BA). 


It’s the little things that add up to make a big difference in patron services. For that reason, I am obsessed with trashcans, step stools, and staplers–but more on that later. This post is really about the Patron Services Committee.

The Patron Services Committee, or the P in RIPS, focuses on “ILL, Circulation, and other topics relating to services provided to the patron.”  After years of really only holding terrific roundtables at the Annual Meeting, the committee has been branching out over the past year. Using ideas from past roundtable discussions as a starting point, we created four subcommittees evaluating best practices, tool kits, and online roundtables. Julie Krishnaswami, a RIPS Member at Large, is also working with us to write an Access Services white paper.

Topics we are concentrating on include the following:

  • Customer Service
  • Innovative / Nontraditional Services
  • Service in an e-information world
  • Patron access to library space
  • The challenge of service when change is the new normal
  • Articulating value in patron services

Our hope is to grab all the little tidbits from the expertise of our members. It’s the little tips and ideas that can make a big difference. Sure, moving your service point or creating a new service is really helpful, but the small tricks that align with your organization’s mission and vision are really important as well.

So here are my ‘little’ big obsessions:


Trashcans migrate; so proper placement throughout your space is key. People are lazy, but if you find the proper location for your trash can, they’ll throw their stuff away. If you are reconsidering your food/drink policy, you also have to think trash. I aim to have a trash can and recycle bin in eyesight from almost anywhere someone would be sitting or walking. This requires coordination with the building maintenance staff, but with proper coordination, it works really well. Our cleaning crew has told me they prefer emptying more trashcans to the messes that are created by people not picking up after themselves.


Librarians are obsessed with staplers in general. There is conversation galore, and Jason Vance recently wrote an article in College and Research Libraries News about what he labels Staplercide.  However, I’ve found the secret to staplers, and I’m sharing it for the first time. First, buy the nicest staplers you can afford. Then, put staples in that are larger than you say they are. So for a stapler that staples ‘up to 30 pages,’ put in the 30-60 page staples. And for the stapler that staples ‘up to 60 pages,’ put in the 60-90 page staples. It increases the life of the stapler exponentially. It is also important to have a staff member who is really, really good at fixing an electronic stapler. If you follow these steps, virtually all of your stapler problems will be solved. You have to check them daily, but the grief is gone.

And, side tip — if you punch aluminum foil occasionally, it sharpens your hole punch’s blades. Or, at least it seems to do so.

Step Stools

Step stools are important too. I firmly believe that lack of step stools is a reason the collection doesn’t get used. The patron thinks, “Oh, the book is out of reach, and I can’t find a step stool. Oh well, I’ll use something else online.” I’ve watched it happen. Having step stools strategically placed in the stacks is very important.

However, I’m only one person with three little patron services obsessions. Through examining best practices, creating tool kits, writing a white paper on Access Services, and online roundtables, the RIPS Patron Services committees plans to highlight the ‘little’ and ‘not so little’ tips to improve your space and services.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  If so, please do so in the comments.



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