Reference service without the desk

Theresa S. Arndt (Library and Information Services, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 16 February 2010



This article aims to describe how a college library critically examined its maintenance of a traditional reference desk for in‐person services and changed its service model to suit local needs.


The author examined quantitative and qualitative reference use data prior to changing the service model, and the purpose of reference services was formally articulated. Following the change the author again examined use data, conducted a convenience sample survey, and measured visits to the web site.


The author came to the conclusion that while maintaining in‐person reference was important for the library, a separate desk was not the best means of providing service at the college. Following the change to the service model, use of reference and consultation services dramatically increased.


The new on‐call, consultative reference service model is described, as is a description of how they managed the change process internally, how they marketed reference services to the students, and how they are assessing the results. Considerations for choosing a reference model appropriate to one's local conditions are outlined.



Arndt, T. (2010), "Reference service without the desk", Reference Services Review, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 71-80.

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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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