The Mudd and Me: The Reference Desk

DIrector of the Seeley G. Mudd Library Peter Gilbert at the Reference Desk on the first floor of the library.
Photo By Larissa Davis.

It can be overwhelming to navigate a research project if one is unfamiliar with the right research sites or resources available in the Seeley G. Mudd Library. The reference desk, easily spotted on the right when walking into the library, is consistently staffed by librarians who are equipped to help with any research questions, as well as general library queries, that a Lawrentian may have. Reference librarians can be reached in a number of ways. While simply walking up to the desk is a clear option, students can, in fact, also access the expertise of reference librarians from the comfort of a dorm by accessing the Librarian Chat online at the library home page.

Alice G. Chapman Director of the Library Peter Gilbert, seated by one of the reference computers, gestured towards the screen and explained, “I’ve got the console here so I’m monitoring this when I’m on the reference desk.” Gilbert added that along with the chat window, students can also call the desk or e-mail for information.

Though it is helpful to have these immediate forms of contact with reference librarians, students can be even better served by planning ahead of a big project to meet one-on-one with a reference librarian. “I’m not sure that everyone understands that we can make research appointments,” Systems and Services Data Librarian and Assistant Professor Craig Thomas mused, when asked what resources students may not be aware of missing.

Gilbert explained the process of creating and facilitating a research appointment. Students can fill out a form found on the library’s home page, which Gilbert said can tell the reference librarians “what you’re working on, what you’ve done so far [and] when you can meet.” All of the reference librarians will receive the form and “whoever is best suited or whoever has the time to follow up will do that,” Gilbert continued.

In preparation for a research appointment with a student, Gilbert said a reference librarian will “take your topic and figure out the best approach for it. And maybe find some resources, figure out the best databases, ways of searching that will help you.” This way, a student can have more in-depth, uninterrupted one-on-one help with any sort of research project.

University Archivist and Assistant Professor Erin Dix emphasized the benefit of making these appointments by pointing out, “If you try and bang your head against something and you’re having trouble getting information and you’re spending a lot of time and energy, we can help save you that stress and that time if you come see us early on in your research process. That’s really what we’re here to do.”

In agreement with Dix, Gilbert also said, “I think the main thing we want students to know about the reference desk is that we’re here to help and we’re here to help you save time. Do students have lots of extra time? No… rather than banging your head against databases or the internet or the library catalogue or whatever come and ask us. That’s what we’re here for and that’s what we want to do and what we like to do.”

Beyond specific help with research projects, the reference librarians pointed out that the reference desk offers many helpful resources. Thomas described the reference desk as “a switchboard for finding out what’s available” at the library.

Dix added that subjects the reference librarians can help students, faculty and staff with “can span from really in-depth questions about projects that students might be doing for classes, to how to find a book on the shelves, so it’s a wide range of different things that people might need help with.”

Gilbert was enthusiastic about all that the reference desk can do, stating, “It’s all over the map! That’s one of the best things about being a reference librarian, is the wide variety of questions that we get.”

The librarians who man the reference desk are dedicated to providing the Lawrence community with assistance on any scale, be it for senior capstone research or simply navigating the library. By sharing their knowledge of the library’s many resources, reference librarians can help any student delve into a project with professional help and strategies. The reference desk is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. Before the next research project sneaks up, be sure to contact the reference desk to receive specialized help from a librarian who can save you the pain of endless hours of searching for the right resources.