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Librarians are "Fountains of Information"

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by Felicia Smith |
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Green Library's Information Center's, Fountain of Information service. Reference Librarian Felicia Smith.

If you walk by the south entrance of Green Library between 1-3 pm, Monday through Friday, you may notice a new and exciting service offered by the Information Center. An extension of "roaming reference," we call it "Fountains of Information." Our ultimate goal is to continue making our reference and "Ask Us" services available to as many patrons as possible while using multiple contact options.

It has been said that Stanford campus is among the most beautiful anywhere in the world. And with perpetually pleasant weather it seemed logical to extend our reference services to an outdoor setting. A preliminary literature review failed to reveal any information about other academic libraries offering reference services in an outdoor setting such as this. So, this appears to be a novel program idea.Reference Librarian Phyllis at the Red Fountain.

This Fountains of Information service is a pilot roaming reference service that began during the spring quarter. The roaming reference librarian will be outside of Green Library, Monday through Friday (weather permitting), in the vicinity of the red fountain, equipped with a laptop or iPad to answer questions. There is a large poster on a rolling board announcing who we are, and the poster includes a photo of the librarians who are participating in this pilot. The pilot hours will be in the afternoons from 1-3 pm to take advantage of the lunchtime crowds.

In the first couple of weeks of this pilot program, patrons have commented that this is a great idea. Here are some reasons why people are favorable to this concept:

  • No need to swipe ID cards or complete the visitor registration to speak with a librarian in person, particularly if it's a quick question.
  • No need to have bags checked when exiting, upon the completion of the reference interaction. 
  • Simple convenience. Some folks who weren't even going into the library, spotted the librarian and asked a question.

The new user-focused reference service can be summarized in one phrase: "That's so Stanford!"

Comments

Well, this is certainly something I've never seen at any University but it is quite clever! I mean, if I had a quick question it is wonderful to find this "roaming librarian" to assist vs. having to take time and go inside the library. Way to go "ahead of the curve" Stanford Library!
This is exactly what we Table X'rs talked about last Fall-taking it to the streets! Xcellent!
How many questions did you get in how many weeks? What types of questions did you mostly get?
Thank you for the comment. This is a pilot project that was only recently formalized. So in the past few weeks that staff has been dedicated to it, we get about approximately 4 questions during each 2 hour shift. Typically students searching for Course Reserve material or asking about an actual homework assignment. Some ask about I.L.L. Students spend as little as 2 minutes for a quick book search to 60 minutes on in depth homework assignments. I have handed off students to the person relieving me and they continue working with students during their shift. Usually 6 people stop by daily just to say it is a GREAT IDEA! Hope this helps

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