Public Services

Listen and connect: Our philosophy of librarianship

Our friend Steph Klein is guest-curating the Squeezebox KC Instagram this week, featuring women in the workplace. (Yay!) Squeezebox is a rad organization that tells the stories of people and places in our fair city. As part of Steph's project she asked us to tell her what's important to us about librarianship. We think and talk about that all the time but nothing had ever forced us to define our philosophy. Now we have, and thought you might like to read it.

 The Jess and Dani Brand of Librarianship

  1. Curiosity

  2. Listening

  3. Making connections

I recently stole a colleague’s customer service philosophy: be a good listener. In four words it encompasses so much about what’s important to being a good customer service provider, a good teacher, and a good librarian. We have to listen to what students are saying they need or we can’t help them, and we also have to listen to what they’re not saying or don’t know how to say. That’s the sneaky-detective part of being a librarian. Figuring out a person’s unconscious, unknown, or unarticulated needs. Some librarians just give a student exactly what they ask for without “going the extra mile” to figure out what could really help the student that they don’t know to ask for.

A lot of librarians are really good at imparting knowledge...even when it’s unsolicited. It can be much harder to listen well and then to follow the lead of the student so we don’t waste their time “librarian-ing” the heck out of them. Listen carefully and ask questions. The best way a librarian can answer a question is to help the student make a connection. We connect students to information resources, to experts, to organizations, to other students, to tools they can use to make their lives easier and their work more productive. It’s easy to dispense advice; it’s harder to teach a student how to define their own information needs, devise ways to meet those needs, and then to step back and watch it happen. Provide expertise, but let students make their own decisions.

We know about so. much. stuff. That’s the result of the curiosity thing. I mean, what other motivation could there be for the sheer amount of reading we do? But satisfying our curiosity is all in the service of being prepared to make those connections for students. We don’t have to tell every student everything we know, but we are ready with so many possible answers if we just stop to listen.

Reference Desk Signage For a New Semester

So, the beginning of the Fall Semester is exactly opposite of skipping through a field of daisies.  And because sneaking sips of an adult beverage at the bottom of the file cabinet isn't always an option, I like to turn to another outlet: doing a creative and fun task even when you should be doing a million and one more important things. In our Ref Desk Redeux, I gave you a how-to and some best practice guidelines for creating signage (in short, don't make ugly shit). So here is my cathartic creation for the reference desk. Feel free to download and use at your library's reference desk!

Tools Used: Evernote & Penultimate for iPad (where I originally brainstormed the content for 5 or 6 sign ideas), Piktochart, Adobe Kuler, and advice from my gals Melinda & Dani.

Reference Desk Sign

Ref Desk Redeux: Go Ahead

GoAheadAskME So here's the deal. A little under two years ago, our library embraced a trending equation: circulation desk + reference desk = one service desk. The desk itself has two levels; there is a high, walk-up side for circulation and a low, please-have-a-seat side for reference. On the wall above and behind the desk, the words "service desk" are neatly mounted, their sans serif font and silver, matted sheen appearing in a large and effective manner.

This signage is classy, sure, but Dani and I recently found ourselves desiring something a bit more... fun! Something to make the desk less intimidating and more approachable. We've come up with lots of signage design ideas, and we'll be sharing them with you here through Ref Desk Redeux.

But wait--it gets even better! We'll also give you free printables that you can download, along with tips and tricks for creating your own rad signs. I know, I know... you're welcome.

And now, the how to:

What you'll need: This super fancy desk sign holder, Mircosoft Publisher, and a color printer

Step 1 : Think of a simple, clever statement to draw in your patrons. Try to be at least 50% funny.

Step 2: Open publisher and start experimenting! I highly recommend the following:

  • Choose brightly colored backgrounds (you can change the background color by clicking the Page Design ribbon, then selecting the drop down arrow under the "Background' icon).
  • Use more than one font, but no more than three.
  • Do not, ever, under any circumstance (including the temptation to be ironic) use Comic Sans. Instead, try a combination of typefaces to add variety or emphasis. In this example, I used Segoe Print and Segoe UI Symbol, which are both fonts that came loaded with Publisher 2013. For more help choosing non-cheesy fonts, take a look at our Typography Downloads Pinterest board and check back soon for our tutorial on finding, installing, and using free fonts from the web.
  • Make sure the thing is readable. White lettering looks great on colored backgrounds, just make sure the background color isn't too light. You might also have to change the colors after testing the printed color, which will vary a bit from what you see on the screen.
  • Don't give in to the habit of aligning all the text to the center, nor to the middle of the paper. While this option may work great for certain signs, why not play around with different asymmetrical options?

Step 3: Is it pretty? Is it catchy? Is is fun? Not sure? Ask for patrons' opinion. Once you get a few green lights, print 'em! If you use a sign desk holder similar to the one mentioned above, you can print out two versions in two separate colors, then spin the sign holder around every few days to keep people on their toes (okay, this part isn't necessary, but I'm pretending that there's scientific evidence to support my hunch that changing signs often will keep patrons' attention and prevent signage from "blending in" to what their eyes are accustomed to).

So tell me, what kind of signage do you have for your reference desk? How often do you change it? Do you have any signage design ideas to share?

Dear Students,

Sorry, no textbooks!

The first week (month?) of each new semester is filled with interactions in which we crush the dreams of a flood of new students when we have to inform them that no, the library did not buy enough copies of every textbook for every student. Sorry!

In a (probably futile) attempt to remind students that the library is not the same as the university bookstore, we made some nice, clear, colorful new signs to place around the library. We don't know if it really helped, but it made us feel better.

Dani