All the frustrated trendsetters want to leave the old-fashioned library notions behind and go where the users go. Since I don't have any principles and am easily led by the bandwagon appeal, I've decided to go along for the ride. No, this doesn't mean I'm opening up a branch of the Annoyed Librarian Flea Libary on Second Life. I'm too busy with my first life to bother. But it does mean I think that librarians should start going where the users go. And we know where that is:
The obvious answer to the question, "Where do the users go?" Think about it. This is a space that almost all library users will visit at one time or another. I bet the usage statistics are higher than the reference desk! And yet, knowing that not only are our users there, but that while there they are a captive audience for our many information services, why have we waited this long to exploit this opportunity? Why, because we're all just reactionaries who don't want to adapt to the times! And unlike other "spaces" associated with the library, like "virtual" reference, this time we know we have the audience there in person, unless there's some advance on Internet technology I haven't heard about.
How do we exploit this opportunity? I've got several suggestions.
First, we gotta go mobile. The best way to do this is to have an apparatus similar to that of a cigarette girl, only with a laptop instead of cigarettes. We should probably include a few pieces of scrap paper in case people need to write down call #s or something, and maybe some extra toilet paper in case people need to, you know.
Next, we should use every available space to spread our messages. Sure, right now there might be some graffiti in your restroom stalls. We need to replace that graffiti with our own library graffiti. "For a good time call...the Reference Desk!" That sort of thing. We could add a newsletter, or better yet, have toilet paper printed with our library newsletter, which would guarantee people would at least handle the newsletter, even if they didn't read it, and it would go to a lot more use than most library newsletters do now.
And you know how patrons are sometimes hesitant to approach the reference desk, because they don't want to disturb us? Or maybe because they just don't have any questions? Now we don't have to worry about that, because we'd be going where the users go. It's a well documented fact that people are never more comfortable or less inhibited than when resting on the, um, porcelain throne. We can take advantage of that relaxation to get the best reference interview possible. Imagine how concise the reference interview would be if we poked our head over the stall door and said in a loud clear voice, "How may I help you?!" (we'll either need step-stools or short stall doors; I recommend the latter. Saves the hassle of moving the stool). Imagine the surprised look on the face of our beloved patrons when they realize how hard we're working for them. Our beaming expressions and vacant eyes should tell them that we're excited about going where they go!
And of course we'll have to install wireless computers in all the stalls. You know how some stalls have those diaper changing stations? We could do the same thing, except when you pull down the little door thingie it could be a keyboard for a computer! Imagine how relaxing library research would be if we did that. I said, imagine it! And if we keep a little plastic cover over it, it could still be used for diaper changing! This whole Library 2.0 thing is about adapting to the supposed needs of our patrons. Well, they need to use computers and they need to change diapers. This way we kill one bird with two stones.
Just to let people know how much we want to satisfy their information needs, we could knock on the doors every two minutes and ask if they have any questions. I think it would be fun.
Okay, I realize I've left out a group that thinks itself important--men. Yes, I know a lot of men probably don't use stalls because they have urinals. I figure that just saves us the effort of looking over the stall door to make eye contact. The walls over the urinals can still have our newsletter, and we can send in any male librarians to slap "users" on the back, look them in the eye, and ask if they have any questions. I'd do this myself, but I'm afraid of what the questions might be.
Remember our motto: Go Where the Users Go! ®