Reference at Your Fingertips: Using New Technology with Point of Contact Services

Objective: During a library renovation, the reference desk and forty public computers were displaced from the main service floor. During this time, we launched a new technology allowing reference staff to be more accessible to patrons in the library, particularly those working on other floors than the reference desk.

Methods: Working with the library’s information technology (IT) department, we created software for the public computers incorporating a desktop icon. This program is referred to by library staff as Quick Help. A home-grown alert program installed on reference desk computers works in conjunction with Quick Help. When a patron clicks on the Quick Help icon on their computer, they are prompted to confirm that they would like assistance. An alert message then appears on all reference computers simultaneously. The alert message indicates the computer number where the help is requested, as well as time of request. Computer numbers indicate the floor and location of patrons needing assistance. This call button enables us to offer in-person attention to patrons on all five floors.

Results: Due to Quick Help’s success during the renovation, we continue to offer this service via all public computers. Quick Help is used frequently, and questions are as wide-ranging as the ones we receive through other service points. We now double-staff the reference desk facilitating faster service to the upper floors, but it is also used by patrons near the reference desk on the first floor. Patrons like it and needed no training or encouragement to use it. Use of the service varies from month to month, with Quick Help being used most often during months that coincide with the beginning of academic semesters: January and February or September and October. These 4 months account for 49% of all Quick Help transactions in 2008. The majority of Quick Help questions are informational. This trend is consistent with other methods of our patrons’ inquiries.



Work Title Reference at Your Fingertips: Using New Technology with Point of Contact Services
Penn State
  1. Ryan Harris
  2. Tierney Lyons
  1. Libraries
  2. Reference Services
License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States
Work Type Poster
Publication Date May 15, 2009
Geographic Area
  1. Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Related URLs
Deposited October 05, 2012




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added z3484zk69q_version1_QuickHelp.pdf
  • Added Creator Ryan Harris
  • Added Creator Tierney Lyons
  • Published