Taking librarians off the desk: One library changes its reference desk staffing model

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16 Scopus citations


Purpose - This paper is a case study of the decision at Central Michigan University to take librarians off the reference desk. Departmental data on reference desk traffic and other ancillary functions of the reference department was used to make the case for removing the librarians from the desk. Data collected since the decision was made has supported the decision to move to an on-call reference desk staffing model. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach - The department reviewed and analyzed data on reference desk transactions of all types from previous years to inform its decision making. Data trends and an analysis of the nature of the questions asked at the reference desk were instrumental in the analysis. Findings - The department determined that the statistical data justified the removal of the librarians from the reference desk. Data collected since moving to the on-call model supports the earlier decision. Originality/value - This paper provides libraries considering their own desk staffing models with a discussion of another library’s decision-making process and evidence of a successful migration to a new reference service model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Measurement and Metrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 13 2015


  • Librarians
  • On-call
  • Reference desk
  • Staffing


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