Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's the End of the Reference Desk as We know It, and I Feel Fine

Tech guru's say 2009 was the year of the netbook and 2010 will be the year of the tablet. I'm going to go one further and say it's the year of the Friendly Librarian, because the tablet may very well get rid of the most intimidating barrier of any library: the reference desk.

Much has been done in recent years to make the desk less scary to patrons who have questions; recent innovations include making desk more rounded, adding flowers, and removing the word reference in favor of the more trendier "Information Desk" (which presupposes people who come to the desk actually read signs, which any librarian can tell you simply is not true). The fact is, however, few things can be done to make people less afraid of going to the desk to ask a question, so with all the tablets coming out this year, perhaps it's time to consider if libraries really need a reference desk.

Why should patrons have to come to the desk? The modern library should be a place where librarians don't wait for people to come with questions, rather they roam the library looking for confused patrons aimlessly studying the shelves trying to make sense of that bizarre thing called Dewey.

Freescale claims it's going to have a stripped down tablet running either Google Chrome or Linux by summer that will sell for only $200--powerful enough to run an online book catalog remotely.  Lenovo and HP both have models in work in the 500 to 1000 range for people who need something more powerful and running Windows. If you really want to be cool you could go with the rumored Apple Tablet, but likely that will be nothing more than an overpriced, oversized, iPod touch.

1 comment:

Mohamed Taher said...

End of reference desk, fine.
End of libraries?
I just did a post on libraries and museums -- (I think, I should have sub-titled: friends, buddies, or competitors):

In your profile, the link is incorrect (I clicked at your site address, but got an error):

Best regards