It should not surprise any of you that I am not only an impressively talented librarian, but also a consummate gardener. Gardening allows me literally to plan for the future. So last fall, I spent an entire afternoon planting no less than 200 bulbs, in the lawn of my gracious, yet historic home.
And would you believe this Spring, as if called from the heavens, little sprouts came up, exactly where I wanted them. Dozens and dozens. It was lovely. I admired them each morning, squatting carefully - coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. I'm sure my neighbors wondered why someone would be admiring the ground so closely in such nice trousers. I'm very sure one of my neighbors did, and she may win the award for being even nosier than me.
At any rate, on Saturday morning, I noticed that some of the tops of my sure to be prize winning tulips had been eaten. Not nicely chewed, or even mowed down - but eaten. With no time to be lost, I slipped out of my wellies, and into my loafers. I was off to the hardware store.
I bought cedar stakes and heavy, mesh netting - and constructed my very own Rabbit Proof Fence ™.
You sit and wonder, what the hell is he talking about? Has the public library finally driven him batty? No gentle readers.
As I pounded in the last of the fence, I thought to myself "I wonder if this is what the Reference Desk is like to the public". I actually thought that, in addition to the fact that I was thinking that my scarf was blowing rather dramatically behind me as I stood in the yard. The breeze was quite strong, I'm sure it gave quite an effect to who ever was in the Italian Villa across the street - I saw their net curtains move.
But returning to my point - in Library School ™, we learned about something called Fort Reference. And we were warned that it was quite possibly the most awful thing in the world we could do to our customers. And it is true.
First of all, customers don't say "REFERENCE", that is a librarian word. We have lots of them, and we are all slightly guilty (some more than others)of employing the lingo as if we studied library elocution at Mrs. Porters School for Girls. They don't get it, and we just scare them away.
Then the desk, that big formidable desk with the sign (or three) near by that tells the customer they are approaching something that looks like a desk, but its labeled something else.
Sort of like me in an automotive supply store - belts and car bits and other whatnot. I don't know what the hell it all means - I have to count on a)accurate signage that speaks my layman language and b)something practical and noticeable.
And is the desk approachable? Do folks in wheelchairs have to look up at you? Does the counter hit the customer at the waist or higher? More over, do you loom behind the desk? Classic Red Flags.
Is your Fort Reference covered even more with lots of brochures, business cards, phones, and computer monitors? Hmm. Bad news.
Is your Fort Reference a Rabbit Proof Fence?
Trust me, the customers want to get at our greens - and we need to let them have at.
You might be the best librarian in the world, and your Fort Reference is scaring them away. Assess your situation and make appropriate changes.
If you can't get rid of the desk, stand in front of it. You shouldn't be working on off desk projects while you are on desk anyway. How do I know this? I, gentle reader, am the Well Dressed Librarian. I just know these things. Don't question me.
Moral of this blog: Aww. Bunnies.