Information, Please!

We've posted before about what happens in the Reference Office but what about that Information Desk in front of the office---who staffs it and how can they help you?

The Information Desk is staffed by Hopkins graduate students, mainly from Humanities disciplines. Currently, we've got students from Classics, German and Romance Languages and Literature, History, History of Art, History of Science and Technology, and Near Eastern Studies. Our graduate student workers are savvy library users themselves but we don't hire them to be reference librarians. 

Their responsibility is to answer "known item" questions like "do you have this book?", "how can I find my reserves?", "how do I print?", and the perennial favorite "where is the bathroom?" When they get an open-ended question like "where can I find books on psychology?" they'll refer that question to the Reference Librarian on duty, who sits down with the student, demonstrating how to search the catalog and focusing in on what's needed in psychology. So the Information Desk student handles the quick, known item questions, leaving the Reference Librarian to handle the in-depth research questions.

A lot of students approach the Information Desk asking "where can I find this call number?" If you're one of them, don't be surprised when the student worker looks it up again. They know where to direct you but before they send you off on your quest, they want to make sure the book is where it's supposed to be. The JHU libraries' catalog includes all JHU libraries locations as well as the Libraries Service Center and we don't want to send you down to the Stacks to look for a book that turns out to be elsewhere.

Memorably, last February, these student workers were part of the staff that enabled the library to open all levels the last weekend of Snowpocalypse. They were as happy to get back into the library as the rest of the student population. The Information Desk is the best place to start when you have a question; after all, they answered 7,279 questions last semester!

About Ellen Keith

Reference Services Coordinator and Librarian for Sociology and the Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

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