More on the Paging System at Darien Library

To followup on yesterday’s post in which I noted that I was going to look for more information on the patron notification system at Darien Library, I’ll note here that Diana K. Wakimoto’s post at the Waki Librarian provides a nice summary of John Blyberg’s presentation about the project at Internet Librarian last month. If your library was thinking of moving away from a constantly staffed reference desk or wanted to find a way for patrons in far flung parts of the library to be able to request assistance, the Darien Library’s patron notification system seems like a well thought out solution.

Patron Notification System at Darien Library

This post is just a reminder to myself that I need to investigate further this interesting “patron notification system” that the Darien Library (CT) is putting together. I think that the Growl software is involved in some way. I’m guessing that it allows a patron to request help from any available librarian. I first heard about this last year from this annotation on an image on John Blyberg’s Flickr account:

Experimenting with using growl as a paging notification system for roving librarians. The patron can push a button on a touch-screen display on the service desk and a “growl” will be blasted out to all available librarians. Uses growl ( and growl for windows (

More recent images on Blyberg’s Flickr account offer a better glimpse at what they’ve been cooking up in Darien.

Getting More Mileage Out of Reference Interactions

A recent article in Reference & User Services Quarterly caught my eye today:

Finnell, Josh and Walt Fontane. “Reference Question Data Mining: A Systematic Approach to Library Outreach.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 49.3 (2010): 278-286. Web.

The authors describe a process developed at the library at McNeese State University in which reference statistics recorded at the desk included not just question type but also the subject of the question and the course (if any) connected to the question. Questions were later mapped to LC classification numbers, which then helped library staff to make collection development decisions. The data also led the librarians to refine their instructional offerings and to make new outreach efforts to specific departments.

Will there still be a desk?

Librarians have been busy this year debating the future of reference. First, a discussion arose at the ALA Midwinter meeting in January about whether libraries should still have a reference desk. Dave Tyckoson, the current president of RUSA, then posed the same question on RUSA’s official blog on February 2 (“Ditching the Desk?”) and got a few comments, including one that I wrote.

This same debate over the future of the desk came up again at the Reference Symposium held at Columbia University Libraries on March 9 at which it was argued whether or not the reference desk will disappear in five years. At ACRLog, Steven Bell wrote two posts describing his role in the debate in arguing that the desk would indeed be gone:

Another event that sparked a lot of commentary (on blogs and elsewhere) was a panel session on March 30 at the ACRL conference in Baltimore titled “The Reference Question–Where has Reference Been? Where is Reference Going?” Notable coverage included:

Though dated April 20, the piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Scott Carlson actually came out before the blog posts by Brian Matthews and Barbara Fister and is no longer freely available on the Chronicle‘s web site.

The blog posts all offer a rich set of comments that gave me quite a few ideas, not so much prognostications about the future but instead a vision of how I would like to see our college library’s reference desk changed. In my next post, I’ll tackle that.