Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Article Note: On floating away from reference desk

Citation for the article:

Ott, Katherine and Sueling Chhiu. "The First Wave: Floating in the Florida State University Strozier Library, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida." New Library World 108.3/4 (2007): 165-176.

Read the article via Emerald.

This article overall was not bad, but I had some concerns after reading it. I was concerned about enforcement of rules, which seemed to rise with the floating, and the notion that roamers could be serving a function as "cheap security." In our setting, security is a bit of an issue; we are still fighting to get a security guard or two. So the last thing I would want is the idea of library rovers doing a security role spreading around. However, I do think the idea of roving reference does have some merit. The program's design as stated in the article:

"The floating program was designed to provide quick answers to directional, informational, and easy research questions from patrons at the point-of-need" (166).

In the literature review, we get yet another description and listing of millenial traits. Any librarian who has done even a minimal job of professional awareness knows these traits by now.

Keep in mind that the floating program described in the article also has an enforcement element:

"This program is also designed to enforce all library policies, to assist with the maintenance of the stacks, to walk six floors of the library on a daily basis, and to assist desk personnel with patrons by having staff who are walking floors check in at the information and reference desk every fifteen minutes" (169).

Now, I am one of those librarians who don't go "ga ga" over every liberal and permissive trend. For example, if cellphones are disruptive, I want them out, and so do a lot of my patrons contrary to what certain 2.0 maniacs proclaim. However, this does not mean I want to be in the position of being the cellphone or drinks police. The concept as presented in the article creates a conundrum for me. I would like to aim for a reasonable middle ground.

The Strozier Library used student assistants for much of the floating, followed up with staff members. The students did receive relevant training. Interesting to note that it was the students who more often identified unacceptable behavior from patrons. The authors conclude that the project was worthwhile and beneficial to patrons. Article appendixes include the floating statistics sheet and the FSU Libraries Food and Drink Policy.

1 comment:

Tracie said...

I didn't read the article yet, but I want to follow your comment about becoming the "cell phone or drinks police". It seems like the "floating librarian" concept could create a disconnect between the librarian and patrons. Patrons (I'm thinking more of children or students rather than adults) may think, "Oh no, here comes the librarian again to check up on us." It might look like we don't trust our patrons. Maybe it all depends upon the librarian? If they don't act like a rules enforcer, maybe it would be ok. As a patron, I'd rather just know that if I need help, I should go to the designated spot. Perhaps I look at it differently because I am a librarian.