Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Lamont, Widener Launch "Librarian On Call"

Librarian On Call

Pam Matz, Research Librarian at Widener, helps a student in the Atkins Reference Room.

September 9, 2009 – Over Labor Day weekend Lamont and Widener Research Services staff launched “Librarian On Call,” a coordinated reference service that pairs a librarian with a student assistant to ensure weekend reference coverage in both libraries.

The program is one of the many ways Harvard College Library is working to respond to Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College Nancy Cline’s challenge to find “creative and innovative” ways to maintain the libraries’ high level of service, despite the challenging fiscal climate.  Research Services staffs across the libraries have been particularly affected by early retirements and hours reductions.

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The program will allow for reference desks at both Lamont and Widener to remain open on weekends from noon to 5 p.m.  On Saturdays, a reference librarian will be on duty in the Atkins Reference Room of Widener, while a student reference assistant – trained to respond to general reference questions, and to refer more complex inquiries to the librarian on call – will be on duty in Research Services on Level B of Lamont.  Conversely, a librarian will be available in Lamont from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday, and a student will be on duty at the Widener reference desk.  Regardless of whether the desk is staffed by a librarian or a student assistant, reference questions will be answered, and patrons are encouraged to make inquiries in person, by phone, or by instant message via Ask Us Live.

“In light of the new economic realities we face, we felt the “Librarian On Call” program was a creative way to introduce a weekend component to the staff sharing program we began last spring,” said Martin Schreiner, interim Librarian of Lamont Library and Head of Research Services and Media. “The "Librarian On Call" idea evolved as a way to ensure that a librarian would be available for patrons who need assistance. Other libraries can also refer people and calls to the on-call librarian if they have no reference coverage. This is another step toward working more collaboratively across the libraries toward a new HCL.”