Imagine…a library with no enquiries desk.

The stereotypical librarian frowning at you from an elevated reference desk is now a thing of the past…

In  our fast moving twenty first century world, is a reference desk still the best way to interact with customers at a library?

For the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia, the reference desk perished in 2010 with the redesign of the Main Library.  UNSW librarians thought ‘beyond the library’ and looked into how best to interact with library users.  Retail philosophy found that staffed areas worked better, removing the barrier imposed by desks.

The Help Zone…Picture from the UNSW Library website

After undertaking further research, they launched the revolutionary ‘Help Zone’, a designated area with a lounge and catalogue computers, staffed by reference librarians.  Integrated Help Phones on each of the ten levels of the library enables students to connect with staff at the Help Zone, who could dispatch a roving reference librarian to the appropriate level to assist the student.  Self-service checkouts have freed up staff to provide more value-added services.  Roving staff have ‘Ask Me’ on the back of their uniform.

‘Students instinctively knew how to use it (the Help Zone)’ …UNSW Library

The Help Zone has been hailed a triumph, enabling staff to adopt a more friendly and user-based focus.

Read the paper to find out more.


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