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Special Collections & Archives Student Assistant Guide: The Reference Desk

A helpful guide for student assistants working in Special Collections.

Working the Desk

1. Telephone & Messages

  • If the phone rings while you are talking to a patron, excuse yourself to answer it.
  • Be ready to take a message or transfer a call to the appropriate staff person. Give messages to your supervisor. 
  • If you cannot answer a question, find your supervisor or someone who can. 
  • If there is no one to help, take down the user's name, contact information (email & phone), and their inquiry and leave a note for your supervisor. You may also provide the user with the reference email, if they would like to send their detailed inquiry.
  • If you answer a service desk telephone, please begin by introducing yourself. For Example: "Special Collections & Archives, this is Jennifer, how may I help you?" 
  • Get as much information from the person on the phone as possible. 
2. Homework
  • No homework or outside work can be done on the desk.
  • When you are at work your main priorities are watching the desk, helping researchers, and any job duties or tasks that you have been assigned for your specific position,
3. Texting/Cell Phones/Headphones
  • Cell phone use while on the desk is strictly prohibited.
  • If you need to make a personal call let your supervisor know, office phones are for business use only. 
  • Use of headphones or ear buds are NOT PERMITTED while on the front desk. 
4. Opening & Closing Duties
  • Opening
    • ‚ÄčLog into the student log-in on the front desk computer.
    • Check if any holds are expired & need to be returned to the back.
    • Check if any items are on the return cart & need to be returned to the back.
    • Check voicemail. If there is a message, write it down and give to your supervisor.
    • Are there any other messages left on the desk? If so, hand to supervisor. 
    • File any forms in the "To Be Filed" folder.
    • Ask supervisor what work needs to be done.
  • Closing
    • Clean up the desk area.
    • Push in chairs, clean up researchers tables if needed.
    • Save your work. 
    • Log off the front desk, researcher, & student computer.
    • File all registration/duplication forms.
    • Make sure all returns and holds are on the cart, or the holds shelf. 
    • Turn off the lights.
    • Lock the reading room door & close it.
    • Then as you leave lock the front door, knock on both bathroom doors and then if  no one is there, lock bathroom doors. 
5. Registration Forms
  • The registration forms, duplication forms, camera use policies are all available on this libguide & in the front desk drawer. Please make copies if they are running low.
6. Reference Statistics
  • Track your reference stats on a scale from 1-4. On this LibGuide the second to the last tab, is entitled "Patron Transaction Form". Click on the tab and then the link and a form will pop up. Here you will be asked on a scale 1-4, how much time and effort went into the inquiry and other questions regarding the research areas used and whether it was on site or off site. Just click on the answers provided that most closely corresponds. you can also access the form here;

Tips & Reminders

  • Customer Service: You are the first person visitors see, make it a positive experience! Look up, make eye contact, smile, and greet visitors and find out how you can help them. 
  • Ask Questions: If you don't know the answer to a question, find someone who does! If there is no one around to answer the question, take the patron’s name, contact information, and question and leave a note for your supervisor. 
  • Stay alert: be aware of what is happening in the reading room and the gallery.  Don’t let visitors wander into back areas unescorted.  BE SECURITY MINDED. 
  • Researchers come first: paying attention to the researchers takes priority over other work.  Look up frequently from any other work you are doing; everything comes second to watching the room and helping the researchers.
  • Be helpful: show that you care about the researcher’s work and if you can't help them, find someone who can or take a message. 
  • Know the rules: be very familiar with what is and is not allowed and who to ask about exceptions.
  • Safety: you can always notify your supervisor or call campus police at 3-3333 if necessary.  If it is an emergency call 911.
  • Keep it neat! Keep the desk as neat as possible and do not leave things on the desk after your shift. Stuff on desks make patrons feel like they are interrupting your work. 
  • Events: If there is an event in the gallery or other commotion, then close the door to the Reading Room.  Reopen the door when appropriate. 
  • Switching Shifts: When you leave, make sure someone is there to work the desk. Do not leave the desk unattended!