Onsite Reference Service is a dynamic, high-touch, flexible, and convenient way to meet your liaison area's needs. Delivering face-to-face reference service where users are physically located may be the first (or only!) time a non-library user comes in contact with a professional librarian. Creating a 'librarian' presence outside the library building can give your role added relevance, convenience, immediacy, approachability, and integration into the physical classroom and/or departmental office setting. Your physical presence shows commitment to "being there" for your users, provides increased opportunities for interaction, and can help immerse you into the department's culture and educational activities. Here are a few things to think about when planning regularly scheduled or event-specific Reference Service.
WHAT? Be available in your liaison area’s classroom building, office area, or appropriate special event to offer reference service, provide in-depth consultation, meet your users, and observe how they work.
WHO? Think about who you want to serve. The department may have an empty office up in the graduate student suite, but undergraduates won’t see you there. If you think about being highly visible to the largest number of students, chances are good that most faculty and staff will see you there, too.
WHERE? Anywhere a computer or wireless networking is available. Most UTA buildings are wired. If you want to know where you can post permanent signage, or where the building's wireless ”hotspots” (and deadspots!) are, you may want to consult the appropriate Building Coordinator. Find an area that’s highly visible, not isolated (safety first!), and has a high traffic pattern. Lounges, lobbies, glassed-in vestibules, and near staircases and entrances are good places to consider.
WHEN? High traffic times are best. Think about when classes change, when study groups meet, when the departmental awards ceremony is held, or the monthly faculty brownbag meets. It's not necessary to be there at the same time every day; a few hours once or twice a week is a good start. Try to identify a window that would provide service within 15 minutes of when the largest numbers of classes begin or end. Alot of people move around buildings over the lunch hour. It can also be a good strategy to negotiate with an instructor for 2 or 3 after-class sessions to support a specific assignment.
HOW? If you can find a chair - great! A table – better yet! Advertise the service to instructors and students. Signage is great, but a very brightly colored table sign may be enough. Looking highly mobile and being able to move around is a definite plus. Now, chase down that professor! Ask that lost-looking freshman if they need directions, etc.
WHY? Because users don’t come to you, or the Library, anymore. Because where students and faculty work, learn, study, teach, eat, etc. is where they need and use information.