Back to the Future: Phone Reference “OnCall OnDemand OnSite”
Gerry McKiernan of Iowa State University recently put a post on the dig_ref listserv (DIG_REF@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU) that dealt with a topic I have been talking about and thinking about for quite a while now, namely that:
NOW IS THE TIME TO PROMOTE PHONE REFERENCE SERVICES!!!
The ubiquitous nature of phones in everyone’s hands should make it a totally no brainer that we should definitely, absolutely, without question be actively marketing this underused service.
To quote Gerry: “Another Radical (but Conventional) Idea for OnCall, OnDemand, On Site Reference Service. Publicize the Library Hip Reference Help Phone Number… via Library Newsletter/Blog/Liaisons/Campus Groups/Table Tents/Billboards/TV Commercials/Facebook/etc. Why Chat When You Can Really Chat [:-)”
I agree with what most of Gerry is saying, although my research shows that people choose chat over phone reference for reasons of convenience (some love the transcript) and avoidance of awkward silences that occasionally happen on the phone (I’m not kidding about this, just ask any teenager).
His wake-up call to promote phone reference, however, is totally SPOT ON! All his ideas for marketing library phone reference are excellent. Table Tents are an especially good idea since many library users WILL NOT LEAVE or PACKUP their laptops (who can blame them?) in order to approach the reference desk if it is more than 12 feet away from where they are sitting! It would be nice if they saw the phone number on a table tent and could call for help instead of shrugging off their information need. Of course then we have to lift the ill-advised and impossible to enforce ban on cell phones in the library (and replace this policy with one that asks users to be respectful of others when using cell phones in public areas).
September is also the perfect time to do classroom marketing, what with students in Universities and schools undergoing bazillions (ok, thousands surely, maybe even tens of thousands?) library use instruction or orientation sessions!
Here’s my script for anyone doing one of these sessions:
“Greetings students! I am now about to ask you to do something that NONE of your other teachers/librarians have ever asked you to do…” (wait… for it….)
“TAKE OUT YOUR CELL PHONES AND TURN THEM ON” (amid gasps & nervous laughter from startled students, but they will do it eagerly!)
“Now, enter this library reference desk number into your phone BUDDY list..." (give ref desk number…)
“Next, here are the library hours when you can call this number for reference help” (now the students ACTUALLY have a reason to pay attention to the times when the library is open).
Here’s the clincher… “AND during the OTHER hours we are available by…” (chat, IM, e-mail, whatever you have!!)
Thus marketing chat, e-mail, etc. services along with the phone service. Wow, what an exciting old/new idea!
Wouldn’t it be great to see phone reference stats go through the roof? It's high time to shake our fear of being overwhelmed at the ref desk.
Now is the time! Go for it!