"Ask Here" is Born at the Library

Jim Frutchey chats with a student at the new Ask Here desk in the library. Photo Credit: Miao Hong.

By Jim Frutchey
Research Librarian

The commonplace practice of paraphrasing Bob Dylan to make a point has varying levels of accuracy. However, it is difficult to dispute that the times are indeed changing in the library. As the amount of resources readily available from anywhere via an Internet connection rises, the academic necessity to regularly visit the library declines. In order to remain a hub of learning, the library is attempting to adapt to the times and striving to become a place where people want to congregate.

A visit to the library reveals the changing atmosphere that is underway. Computer and group study space is increasing as the area that holds the printed word, while not disappearing in the foreseeable future, is diminishing. New comfortable seating, wireless Internet connectivity, and a flat screen television on the wall near the circulation desk are additional indications that the library is becoming more user friendly. Can lattes and bagels be far behind?

In the spirit of attempting to change for the better (and benefit from the residual publicity), a contest to rename the reference services of the library was held during the fall semester. As the contest was being organized, it became apparent that the author of this article was not the only one who felt that the term reference services was a bit confusing and stuffy. The rewards for winning the contest by providing the idea for the new name were becoming part of library history at Marywood and an eight-gigabyte music and video player.

Primarily, reference librarians assist library users in attempting to locate information that they need. Therefore, contestant hopefuls submitted appropriate terms such as connection portal, resource support, and information station. However, a last minute entry by Marywood University graduate student and dietetic intern Lolita Yee struck a chord with the contest committee.

Lolita was the only entrant who suggested the simple but powerful word ask. The new name for reference services became Ask Here. Soon it will be difficult to miss signs designating the Ask Here desk near the main entrance to the library. It is our hope that the Marywood community as a whole will feel comfortable in seeking information gathering assistance from the Ask Here desk whether it be in-person, by phone (the new direct number is 961-4714), by e-mail, by instant message, or by wiki or blog entry.

For those who might benefit from in-person research assistance but are not persuaded to visit the library in spite of its steadily evolving atmosphere, help is on the way. Beginning with a trial period during the current semester, an Ask Here outreach program will begin near the end of February.

As deadlines for research projects begin to exert pressure, Ask Here will be on the road. The Ask Here Roadshow will consist of an itinerant librarian with a laptop computer and some enticing giveaways visiting Loughran, Madonna, and Regina Halls. From finding articles in library databases to helping sort through citation rules, the roving librarian will be attempting to answer research questions while making house calls. Specific details of Roadshow visits will be publicized in the near future.