Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reference desk time, Idle

Librarians sometimes have down time at the reference desk when business is slow, but there is no clear consensus on how that idle time should be spent. Is it better to be productive (and perhaps distracted) or unoccupied (and perhaps bored)?

Should a librarian bring office work to do at the desk? Or is it appropriate to read a book or a newspaper? Should a librarian stare into space? Leer at patrons? Should a librarian knit? Balance a checkbook? Clip fingernails?

Today, we ask the readers: What do you do with your down time at the reference desk? Post your answers in the comments section below.

54 comments:

Devon said...

I catch up on my RSS feeds - like this one!

Anonymous said...

I make it look like I'm busy by having notebooks and catalogs open, periodically penciling arbitrary checkmarks in them as I look for ex-boyfriends on Myspace, read this blog, check my personal email, "update" library photos with Gimp, and search for other jobs. If a job opening looks promising, I'll update my resume and cover letter too. When else does that get done?

Anonymous said...

I make plans to usurp control from our director.

libwitch said...

Usually read Bloglines, sometimes NYT, occasionally get through my email. Frankly, our ref desk is too busy for me to focus on work - I do better I an uniterrupted.

I would read my livejournal, but that makes people cranky.

Anonymous said...

Oh, mostly, when I was on the reference desk and had down time (i.e., most anything but the last two weeks of the semester) I'd catch up on reading. Those full-text online magazines and journals are great: NY Times, Newsweek, Scientific American, and so on and so forth. Jotting down notes with pencil and paper helps make this look more legit in case a dean walks through (yeah, like THAT would ever happen).

--- Ben Franklin's Avatar

Shelly said...

I mostly read blogs and sometimes skim through a Newspaper or better, Publishers Weekly.

Library Guy said...

I work on my diabolical plans for world domination....hey, ALL librarians can't be on the side of good. ;-)

Jill said...

Hmmm...well I post comments on other people's blogs. I write entries on the library blogs. Catch up on reading electronically delivered stuff. Send lots of emails to my co-workers to clog their inboxes. Generally though I sit and stare vacantly, jumping into action when someone approaches the desk.

Anonymous said...

Blog etiquette tips for li...quor store clerks.

Suzanne said...

I work on my projects for library school....and maybe read up on some bloglines stuff as well!

Anonymous said...

Read bloglines--but only the library-related blogs, of course. Thank God some of them are funny.

bee said...

I always work the slowest shifts, so I mostly read books, bloglines, or work on homework for library school. I also update my blog
www.booknerd-bee.blogspot.com

miriam said...

I used to look through catalogs and reviews--but at the time I purchased all the adult non-fiction. I really miss this--I used to buy whatever I wanted and read it first.

Sarah Mae said...

whatever work I can manage at the desk, reading listserv emails and catching up on rss feeds

Anonymous said...

I flirt with the IT staff that sit at our Info Commons desk - they are sooooo cute... sexually frustrated librarian...

Anonymous said...

1. Personal email
2. Was watching March Madness until the Tech Army told me I couldn't b/c of bandwith size, which is what my girlfriend tells me too.
3. Read.
4. Listen to another librarian's dinner recap of what she had, how it was cooked, and the service rating.

Val said...

I used to catch up on RSS feeds (using Sage on Firefox not Bloglines); or generally improve my general knowledge by "researching" on the web.

James said...

Edit and add to my extensive enemies list. Make rocks with their names on them for impending rock war.

Anonymous said...

I order books via YBP's GOBI database, read book reviews in NYT and TLS, fool around with new databases, do work-related email, read online newspapers via PressDisplay, plan library instruction workshops.

Andy said...

Most of the time I read slashdot and reddit. Once in a while I just sit still and pretend two or three ref questions from any given day were never asked of me.

Anonymous said...

I, um write my blog, read other blogs, check email, read, play Kingdom of Loathing, download from Itunes,IM my friends.

Mr. said...

read RSS tech news- I'm also the IT staff for the library so it's legit.

email- chat- do anything that can't wait until tomorrow.

I like to make sure my _Please Disturb_ sign is on the desk though. Just in case I look busy.

Anonymous said...

I catch up on my many Bloglines feeds, look at any review publications laying around the desk, look for jobs, and have a look at the NYT online.

information professional said...

1. Check out porn sites.
2. Play solitaire.
3. Pay bills online.
4. Pick my nose.
5. Work on my novel.
6. Check moles for signs of skin cancer.
7. Tai Chi.

spinetingler said...

Blogs, message boards, and myspace.
Mix or remix audio projects.
Edit video.
(some of the above are sometimes work-related!)

Work on managerial missives to annoy my staff.

Lisa said...

Ponder why people think that I am Working when I play dumb games on the computer (or blog or e-mail friends), but Not Working when I read our book vendor's catalog, new YA books, or the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

I bring my stack of several months old, I'm at the bottom of the routing list so whatever, professional reading print publications. No one accuses me of just sitting around and having fun reading whatever I want all day when I've got "Information Today" or "Reference & User Services Quarterly" in front of me. Maybe because I'm clearly not having any fun when I read them.

DMW005 said...

I worked in Reference for a short time years ago and during 'idle' times I would read books, magazines, or newspapers. The director said that we were not allowed to do anything else. :|

Anonymous said...

I sometimes log into Gmail chat, set my message so my friends know I'm at work, and answer their "virtual reference" questions ("Come on, stump me!") and/or discuss books/movies/magazines("readers advisory"). Yes, I put these down as reference statistics. And the usual answering personal e-mails/reading RSS feeds etc.

Cindy said...

You spoiled babies! I am required to work circulation and shelve books which I spend 90% of my time doing. No one is allowed to man the reference deks! I want a new job!!!

Jessica said...

When I am not helping someone with an internet-related issue (about 80% of reference questions), I am fussing around online myself (reading library blogs, email), OR reading reviews/ordering YA books, blogging on one of the three library blogs, setting up the monthly displays, doing the "pull" list, making plans for YA programming, or updating the public access computers.

I work 15 hours a week.I've applied for the Director's position.

maura, the librarian said...

1. work on world peace
2. catch up on library blogs (and perez hilton for the one patron who always asks questions about celebrities! keeping current!)
3. update my blog (which are the reference questions i receive)
4. collection development with LJ and PW
5. online shoe shop
6. daydream about winning the lottery

Anonymous said...

I try to sort the relevant emails from my Inbox into:
a. the important relevant ones
b. the unimportant relevant ones

and:
try to sort the trash that I am not afraid of deleting from trash that I can't figure out whether to delete it or leave in trash - just in case I need it.

It is wonder I have any time at all for user queries.

Anonymous said...

I pull out my shot glass and fill up with my favorite libation and knock it back before the next patron drops by the desk. Heaven knows I'm gonna need it.

Rebecca said...

Like the rest of you, I click around on the sites I like while keeping some legit tabs handy on the toolbar so I can stealth click when neccessary. I read my friends blogs, gossip blogs, news and email. Since I do collection development for teen cd's I get to read Rolling Stone on desk, which is nice. I strongly disagree with the rule of no reading on the desk. I think we should practice preach. I also keep PW or Booklist open in front of me but who can focus on that?!?

Anonymous said...

I find that I can create more free time by glaring at the screen and muttering under my breath.

Anonymous said...

substitute my reference question stats for the number of ppl trapped by our faulty security system.

WDL said...

I check the comments on my blog, check my user stats, forward amusing articles from yahoo news to my friends, and play a rousing game of "Murder, She Wrote" - I Google the names of customers who are currently on the Internet to see if I can find out more about them...criminal records, etc. Nice? No. Amusing? Yes.

Of course, I also read Publishers Weekly and Booklist - so I can order things from the illustrious (or is it notorious?) Baker and Taylor.

xo,
WDL

Anonymous said...

Does no one get up off of their butt and roam the floor to see if anyone needs help?! Proactive customer service, people!!!

Anonymous said...

go through the many emails accounts that I have, and reply to emails. Read the news, jobs, Myspace (or anything similar). Read blogs, check out new movies or tv shows.

i.e. mostly that's not work related :p

Marian the Librarian said...

Catalog.

Anne said...

Order books, read reviews, read emails, read newsfeeds, watch for patrons in distress, rouse dozing users, and always carefully consider my response when someone says "do you work here?"

Paul said...

I read the Onion. That way I'm happy and smiling when people come up to the desk.

Nonanon said...

I try to find fun facts just in case I'm ever invited to a cocktail party (hasn't happened yet), like this one from last week: "70% of all internet porn is downloaded between the hours of 8 to 5, Monday through Friday." Don't ask me to quote the source...I'm not at the reference desk today!

Adam said...

I hold my arms accross my chest, rock back and forth and say, "it's pronounced Li-bary" over and over.

library mistress said...

I spend 100% of my time at the reference desk which is combined with the circulation desk (I work in a quite small library), so in the rare moment when really nobody has a question and noone wants to check out books, I do interlibrary-loan, I process bills, I read publishers' catalogues, I choose and order books, I catalogue, I index, I read blogs and write my own blog, I browse through professional journals, talk to my colleagues, get some coffee, think about something else...

Peter aka SweetPete! said...

Best thing to do on downtime - Mental Mastrbatiion. (Just kidding!)

P.S. I'm not a 'libe but my older bro is, and if I can figure out a way to limit comments such as THIS, then maybe I'll get my shihhhhhhStuff in order and go back to school for my MLS...

P.P.S. my gmail sn is the word 'swtpete'

Monster Library Student said...

I pretend to browse the area that I am working in from time to time, to make patrons think that I ma checking to see if they need anything, making sure to smile if eye contact is established. I am really making sure that no one is stealing anything. Hey, it's Detroit. I myspace, blog, and read books, and do homework.

Anonymous said...

Plan my next vacation!

spinetingler said...

I forgot to mention:

work on my Ebay store.

Woeful said...

One word, Baconator.

libpage#465 said...

Watch to see which supervisor is coming around the corner - some want you standing at attention, just waiting for a patron to come up and ask you where the bathroom is (to your left, past the stairs, you can see it from here). Others don't care if you read or play games (KoL!), and will actually ask you what you think about whatever book you might be reading.

Take that, and intersperse it with trips to the candy dish, and that's our "down time".

(We can't "roam" the area - it's not allowed. We're supposed to make sure there's someone at the desk at all times, just in case someone can't find Word or Internet explorer on our public access computers!) :-)

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Paperback Writer said...

I ... work. We have three librarians. Right now I'm slowly withdrawing 2007 magazines. Other times I look up nice looking donation books to see if we should add or sell them. Sometimes I can read my email.