Drexel University’s W.W. Hagerty Library decided this past summer to remove the reference desk because it caused confusion to new students.
Because most people are still unaware of the process, Jennifer James Lee, the marketing and events associate for Drexel University Libraries, explained, “Traditionally, libraries have two separate desks, and you know, you go to one to check out materials, and you go to the other one for reference help.” According to Lee, students “were coming to the reference desk, which is staffed by professional librarians, and they were asking where the bathroom is or where the printer is.” Instead of being able to assist students and faculty, the individuals at the reference desk were “pointing, ‘Oh, you have to go here to do this.’”
Since the removal of the reference desk, liaison librarians are able to “really go and help faculty and the students with more complicated research,” Lee said. They did not make this decision just based on theory. In fact, the library tracked data to assess which types of questions students ask most frequently. It turned out that directional help far superseded any other category.
Essentially, the library found that “the type of help [they] were providing wasn’t the type of help people really needed, ” Lee said. After recognizing this trend, they decided something had to be altered. Although most new students may not have noticed the change, Lee thinks it has been making a difference so far and that it will continue to be “kind of a big deal.” After all, this change frees up the librarians’ time and also makes it easier for the students to navigate a formerly confusing library. If a student seeks reference help, all of the assistance that was in place before the change is still there, but instead of going to the reference desk, a student would be directed to the circulation desk.
Also, if a student needs assistance with research, a librarian will be contacted to make an appointment with that student. All in all, Lee says this change will keep new students from being “sent to six different places” just to find a printer, and the librarians will have more time to offer their expertise to students and faculty.