Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Redesigning the Service Desk

One of the things I greatly enjoy is being contacted by librarians from other schools. If it isn't already obvious from this blog, I love sharing stories about what we do at the Hub.

When I am contacted by another librarian, it's usually about services or furniture or our big Hubbub party or something along those lines. But by far the question I get most frequently is about our service desks:
  • How do you like those desks/kiosks/whatever you want to call them?
  • How are you using them?
  • What do the staff think of them?
  • How do students react to them?
  • Where do you put your "stuff"?
  • Can you take those off-road? (to be fair though, only one librarian asked me that)

In our planning process, the Information Commons Work Group decided early on to drop the idea of the formal, permanent service desk. A few of us on the group (admittedly, myself included) were initially unsure of this plan. After all, we were plunking down two mall kiosks (let's face it--that's what they are) in the center of the room. Would it be obvious that it was a service desk? How comfortable would it be to work there for an extended period? And yes, where do we put our "stuff"?

I have to say that these desks have worked better than expected. They serve well as the help desk for IT and library staff. The desks are easy to approach, and it's easy to see much of the basement from the desk. The enormous "help help help" sign on both sides makes it pretty obvious that we are a service desk, though we occasionally get:

"Help with what?"

And less frequently, thankfully:

"Do you work here?"

We do continue to improve our signs, though I think some of the "help with what" questions will be inevitable. Our best answer to "help with what" is on several of our signs (thanks, Alice!):

"If we can't answer your question, we will refer you to someone who can."

It's funny though how ingrained we are to look for a very official service desk and approach it from the front. In addition to those people who ask "do you work here?" or "what kind of help?" we get those people who will walk around to the "front" of the desk to speak to us. Even as they are talking or we are talking, they will trek around to the "front" for service. Interesting.

As far as staff, early on some were apprehensive about the desks but as far as I know, everyone seems pretty comfortable there now. Some staff choose to roll the awning up, others choose to move the monitor, rearrange the chairs, etc. That's the great thing about the Hub--practically everything is on wheels and can easily be reconfigured. We solved the "where do I put my stuff" problem early on by purchasing a couple of large plastic bins to store under the desks. These contain paper clips, paper, forms, extra pens and pencils and such. We've all found though that when you work at such a minimalist desk, you rarely have the need for the "stuff" in the bins. Funny how that works.

The desks are a bit cumbersome to move (you have to unplug everything of course first) but they can be rolled to a different location. We really don't do that much, other than occasionally change the angle of the desks or roll them slightly forward or back. We did move them slightly the night we had the Palm Reading Librarian at the desk, but for the most part, they stay where they are. We have learned the hard way that they barely fit in the freight elevator when assembled. But that's a story for another time. For now, no off-roading for us.


Lorraine said...

I can't believe noone asks you the obvious question - where did you buy them??? Can you please let me know - we love them! you can email me at lorraine.squires (at)

thanks so much!!

Stacey Greenwell said...

Thanks, Lorraine! The desk is a Herman Miller work island with canopy. I'll email you the details.

Essay2Review said...

A very splendid helpdesk layout. I really love the desk itself! Nice setup (^_^)