Library’s service desk gets a student-friendly makeover

Public Service Desk 1

Big changes just inside the Thomas Jefferson Library entrance surprised library users at the start of the spring semester. (Photos by August Jennewein)

As students hit the books again and head for the library with a new semester underway at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, they may do a double-take upon entering the Thomas Jefferson Library. Things look different inside with a reconfigured Public Service Desk making its debut.

The new, custom-designed desk brings several services together in an effort to better serve UMSL students and the entire campus community. So far, it’s generating a positive response.

“It’s nice, because there’s two or three of us here at any time,” said junior Emily Knapp, a student worker at the desk who is studying logistics and operations management. “And all of the resources are in one spot.”

That means whether a library user is checking out books, getting research assistance, reserving a study room or asking for directions, those working the Public Service Desk can help. Previously, an additional, separate reference desk was sometimes a point of confusion for students, said Dean of Libraries Chris Dames.

“Your average student, when they come in, thinks everyone who works in the library is a librarian, and that’s not true,” Dames said. “So they would be confused about which desk to go to. So at this point, with one service desk, they don’t have to worry about that. People will direct them as appropriate.”

Public Service Desk 2

Freshman music major Grant Beckmann gets assistance at the library’s new, consolidated Public Service Desk. Manning the desk are (from background to foreground) librarian Raleigh Muns and student workers Preshus Revels and Emily Knapp.

In addition to providing more robust, one-stop service, the desk is also more accessible in a physical sense. Harlee Custer, a senior majoring in biology and anthropology, remembers having some difficulty with the previous, taller desk when she was using a wheelchair last semester after knee surgery. Although library staff were able to lean over and assist as necessary, she said she is especially glad to see the lower desktop that has been installed. A classmate added that it’s an improvement aesthetically, too.

“It kind of makes me think of an aquarium for some reason,” said sophomore biology major Ari Zakroff as he passed by on his way into the library recently.

The total cost of the project was $25,000 ­– about half of what the library initially budgeted for it, Dames said.

“I’m hoping this is really a benefit for students, and so far we’ve had all good feedback,” he said. “I think from their point of view, it’s been a great thing.”

The change also means a more open area leading to the busy Library Research Commons and more room around the ever-popular scanning station, which has been moved to the spot previously occupied by the reference desk.

“We took advantage of that to put the scanner in a more visible space,” Dames said. “Now it’s in a prominent place, and it continues to get heavy use.”

UMSL Libraries‘ two elevators are also in the process of being replaced, with work on the second one due to finish up by early April.

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