Watzek SAC Minutes
February 9, 2010
Noon to 1 pm in Montieth (Templeton)

Student Attendees: Justin Midyet, Sarah Osborne, Tiffany Wang, Teresa Wisner
Staff Attendees: Jenny Bornstein, Jim Kopp, Rick Peterson, Kate Rubick (recorder)


Jenny distributed a survey on behalf of the Marketing Committee to solicit feedback on the Watzek Rocks event.  

The group welcomed out newest member, Sarah!  

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to a speed-dating-like exercise called "Tip of the Hat Wag of the Finger...Reference Desk Edition"  The name is a nod to the segment on The Colbert Report, in which Stephen brusquely yays or nays various random things.  

With four students and four staff members in attendance, this worked very well.  There were four questions related to reference.  Each of the staff members was assigned a question.  Then the four students visited with the four staff members to have five-minute conversations about each question.  After twenty minutes, the four staff members reported back, summarizing the four conversations on each question.  Below are the questions and the summaries.  

Tip or Wag:  Our name—Reference (led by Rick)

 Would a reference desk by another name still be a reference desk?  How are the terms “reference desk” or “reference librarian” meaningful (or not so meaningful) to you?  What if we were called “research librarians” and the desk was called the “research help desk”  Would that be better?  What other names would you suggest?

Two of the students thought "Reference" is a standard term that people should be expected to know (or learn).  They thought coming up with another name was a bit silly.  The other two students thought a name change might be a good way to publicize what the librarians do (they don't just answer quick basic questions).  They thought it might work if Research  Help was listed as a sort of subheading under Reference.  Everyone agreed that the terminology is less important than making sure that students know what sorts of help they can get from reference librarians. 

Tip or Wag:  Our Desk (led by Jim)

 Is the reference desk your preferred spot for meeting up with reference librarians? Why or why not?  What does "going to the library" mean to you?

In short, yes.  If for no other reason than if not there, where else?  Since many of our attendees were first-year students, not all had figured out the multitude of ways (!) to contact reference librarians.  Few to none had yet scheduled research consultations, or had experience working with librarians anywhere except at a traditional reference desk.  So naturally, students did definitely think of the desk when thinking of contacting a librarian.  They felt that "going to the library" was a much broader endeavor, which might involve finding a place to study or finding a printer or a computer.

Tip or Wag:  Students Staffing The Desk (led by Jenny)

 A student has recently been hired to staff the reference desk from 9-10 on weekday mornings.  She answers only basic questions and refers more in depth questions to librarians.  This frees reference librarians up to be more available for consultations and teaching responsibilities.  How would you feel about asking a student a reference question?  

One thing to consider is that for students coming in during the hour in the morning when a reference assistant is at the desk, there is no indication that there is a librarian available to answer more in-depth questions.  A student might assume, seeing the assistant, that the librarians are unavailable.  And, for that reason, they might decide not to ask their question, assuming that the assistant would not be able to help them.  It was also mentioned that if a student had a question about a paper, but the reference assistant was in the same class and writing the same paper, that the student might feel uncomfortable asking the assistant a question about it.  Also, that students might feel uncomfortable asking other students questions that might be somewhat revealing or potentially embarrassing.  It was also mentioned that one thing that has always defined the reference desk, it that it is the desk to go to with serious academic questions.  Students work at the Circ Desk, for example, but the people at the reference desk are thought to be the experts.  So putting a student assistant at the reference desk does blur the line somewhat between the Circ Desk and the Reference Desk.  One student, who works in an office on campus, said maybe the library should have a model more like other offices on campus, where there is an Info desk at the front of the library, staffed by a student who refers students to either Access Services staff or Reference Librarians, and answers basic questions.  The expectation is different because you would always assume that the student would be your first point of contact, but that you might be referred to a librarian when one is available.  

Tip or Wag:  Texting Librarians? (led by Kate)

 If you could text a librarian, would you?  What other ways do you communicate with librarians—IM, phone, email, in person?  Why do you choose the methods you choose?  And who, besides librarians, do you contact when you need help with your research?

Texting is perhaps too casual a medium for official academic communication, on the one hand.  On the other hand, it might be nice to be able to text a librarian from within the library with questions, since that would be more polite than calling on the phone.  Students always have phones with them, after all (unlike computers), so they will always be able to reach us that way if they want to.  Email was felt, unanimously, to be the preferred method of communicating with professors and librarians.  Students like email  Email is NOT just for old people.  Students use email all the time in the academic and personal lives.  It is very intuitive.  Phoning would be the next best option.  Texting would be better for quick questions (like those testing services for answering questions).  None knew about the ability to IM or chat with a Watzek Librarian, but wanted to know if other students used it and thought they might now that they know about it.  Again, these are first-years, for the most part, who have not figured out how the library works.  All students said that reference librarians and professors would be their first contact for help with a paper or with research.  Some said they might just get on a computer and try to figure things out on their own.  Less commonly mentioned were peers and parents.

This page maintained by Kate Rubick rubick@lclark.edu. Updated 16 February 2010 .