Tied with classroom instruction, the place Chapman University students most frequently see librarians is behind the Reference Desk. Sitting behind the large desk in the lobby of the Leatherby Libraries 62 hours a week, librarians on reference duty help students with a wide variety of questions. I sat down with Assessment Librarian Lauren Dubell to learn more about everything librarians do as a part of their reference responsibilities.
Each of the librarians at the Leatherby Libraries has their turn at the Reference Desk. All twelve Subject Liaison Librarians have their shifts throughout the week, and two part-time Reference Librarians round out the schedule, especially evenings and weekends. Librarians on duty at the Reference Desk are there to answer any and all questions from students, faculty, staff, and community members. Librarians don’t just answer reference questions face-to-face, either – they offer reference help in person, over the phone, and over chat – especially for Brandman students.
In addition to being accessible in a wide variety of ways, librarians at the Reference Desk are prepared to answer a wide variety of questions. Some of the most common questions asked at the Reference Desk have to do with starting a research query: what search terms to use, how to use our online catalog, and how to find a book in the stacks using the call number are all very common questions. One of Lauren’s favorite parts of her time at the Reference Desk is that it gives her a chance “to be out there with the students, and really connect with them” in a way that’s less formal than a classroom setting. The one-on-one nature of the Reference Desk, she says, is great, because students feel comfortable approaching and asking questions.
The goal of a conversation at the Reference Desk is to get the student (or faculty member, or community member) a relatively quick answer to their research question. Reference consultations that take place at the desk are capped at fifteen minutes – if your research question will take longer than that to answer, the librarian at the desk will happily help you schedule an Individual Research Consultation (or IRC – more on those in the next blog post) with your subject liaison librarian to discuss your question at greater length.
In her role as Assessment Librarian, part of Lauren’s job is to evaluate how well the library is serving the Chapman University community. A large part of that is assessing how helpful the Reference Desk services are, and how they can be improved to best help Chapman students. Lauren says that students should keep an eye out for a survey in the near future focused on evaluating our Reference Desk services.
Lauren is the Subject Liaison Librarian for Education and Political Science. She says that some of her favorite reference questions have been helping Education students learn how to use the finding aids in the Paulo Freire Critical Pedagogy Collection (housed in the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections & Archives) to find the sources that help them the most with their research projects. “It’s so much fun,” she says, “coming to the end [of a reference question] and you actually found something for the student.” Librarians love finding answers for students, faculty members, and members of the community. So, if you have a question, don’t hesitate to chat, call, or walk right on up to the Reference Desk to ask it!