Vol. IX, no. 1..........................................WINDOWS............................................Nov. 1996

Information Desk Greets Library Users

by Roger Olson

[Photo of the information
Sylvia Camp welcomes visitors to the Library.

In the past, visitors to the TCU Library who simply needed to know the location of a pay phone, the operating hours of the computer lab, or directions to another building on campus may have been uncertain about where to turn for help. Perhaps they would have made their way to the reference desk and asked a librarian. Or perhaps, thinking their question was too trivial, they would have been hesitant to approach a reference librarian. Quite possibly, they might have just wandered off, hoping to find what they were looking for on their own.

As you enter the Library today, there is no ambiguity as to where to go for help. The new information desk that greets you is, by design, so obvious you can't miss it. Upon stepping inside, visitors, faculty, and students now have instant access to a Library staff member, who is on duty to assist with any questions.

This new service came about largely as the result of a grass-roots movement within the Library. When University Librarian Bob Seal challenged his staff last year to come up with ideas for improving the efficiency of the Library, a number of people suggested creating an information desk. For one thing, they could see a steady increase in the number of users seeking reference help—an increase created in part by the rapid development of new information technologies. The establishment of an information desk to filter simple directional and known-item questions would allow reference staff to devote more time to Library users with complicated research questions. Furthermore, an information desk would make the Library more user-friendly.

Last winter, a committee of Library staff members, headed by Cheryl Sassman, was formed to study the feasibility of implementing an information station. After researching the topic thoroughly and soliciting ideas from other institutions, Cheryl's committee launched a pilot project, lasting from March 25 until May 1. For a 5 ½-week period, an information desk staffed by volunteers from the Library was up and running during nearly all of the building's open hours.

The experiment turned out to be an unqualified success. During the project, personnel at the desk fielded over 1800 queries. Feedback from faculty was highly positive, with comments such as, "Good idea," and "This is a great concept." A TCU administrator was heard to say, "By far, a big improvement." Students responded favorably to the desk, with remarks such as, "It looks very nice, I could have used this last year," and "Cool idea, I'm glad the desk is here."

On August 19, a week before the first day of fall semester classes, the information desk was back in business—this time as a regular feature of the Mary Couts Burnett Library. The value of the service was quickly reaffirmed, as hundreds of new TCU students approached the desk seeking directions and help for a variety of reasons. Staff at the desk responded to 619 questions during the first week of the semester alone.

In addition to benefitting Library users, the information desk has had constructive side effects for the Library itself. Almost every person on the staff works a one-hour shift at the desk each week. Some who don't otherwise work in public service positions enjoy the opportunity to interact with the public. Compliance with the Library's food and drink policy has improved, as a result of the closer monitoring of what comes in through the door. For many Library workers, it has been an eye-opener to behold the sheer numbers of people who visit the building each day. We hope to count you among our visitors in the days ahead. Check out the information desk as you come in and say hello. We'll be glad to see you.

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