Lansing Community College Library

Reference & Instruction Guide: Desk

Policies, procedures, best practices and training guide, for reference and instruction services.

Best Practices - Research Help Desk

  • Ensure continuity at the desk by being on time for your shift, wear your name tag and the pink "Please Bother" button.
    • By having your "Librarian on Duty" sign at the desk, name tag and "Please Bother" button on the student employees and patrons can determine you are available for research help.
  • When you are leaving a shift, tell the librarian coming on about any students you have assisted who may come back to the desk for help or whose progress the oncoming librarian may want to check on.
  • At the end of a shift if a librarian must leave right away and your still assisting a student:
    • Be sure to ask an oncoming librarian to take over a transaction
    • Explain to the student that a shift change is taking place then ask the student if it is okay for the oncoming librarian to take over.
  • As needed, conduct a complete reference interview to get a full picture of the student's information need, the type of project involved, and the types of sources the student is required to use or wishes to use.  Ask the student to provide an overview of the assignment requirements.
  • If you find that you are spending a great deal of time with a student, remember to keep an eye on the desk as well to see if someone is waiting.
  • If student(s) need help locating books on the shelves, or research help in a study room or another floor of the library:
    • Let Help Zone workers know you'll be away from the Research Help desk so they can let those waiting when to expect your return and/ or to offer ASK A LIBRARIAN options if student cannot wait.
    • When working with students out of view of Res Help Desk, try to assess their needs and get them independently beginning their research in approximately 15 minutes.  Invite them to come to Res Help desk when they need more assistance. Let them know you need to be visible / approachable for other students.  Share the Appointment service option for 30 minutes of dedicated, uninterrupted research help. 
  • If you are not able to help someone find needed information, try to provide a referral.
  • If the Res Help desk telephone rings while you are assisting visitors, let it ring. On-campus visitors are the top priority at the Res Help desk. When you have finished assisting a visitor, listen to phone messages, and respond as soon as possible.
  • Acknowledge the presence of those waiting for assistance as soon as possible.
  • Practice 'triage' when several people are waiting for service. Ask people who are waiting to describe their needs. If one person can be assisted quickly, but has not been waiting as long as others, ask the others if it's okay to assist that patron first. Then thank them for waiting.
  • When the library is busy, carefully consider how much time to spend with any one student. For example, get a student started on research and then excuse yourself to get a second student started. Go back and forth between the two - this fosters independent learning.
  • If you find that you have several people needing in depth help simultaneously,
    • Consider asking a User Services staff to locate a librarian in their office to come out for help.
    • Try calling a librarian's office if you know they may be there. 
  • If the catalog or college network goes down, try to assist visitors as much as possible using other sources.

As listed on the Ethics & Policies page re: food & drinks in the Library:

  • At the Research Help & Help Zone desks drinks are allowed in the Library purchased containers.
  • To maintain a professional atmosphere, LCC Librarians are not to bring food to the Research Help Desk.
    • Suggestion: Let Help Zone staff know when you step away from the desk to eat a snack or take a breaks.  
  • Librarians are entitled to 15-minute breaks when they work for a four-hour desk shift.
    • Please inform the Help Zone staff when taking your break so students can be informed when you are available.



  • Contact the Help Zone at 483-1038 if you will be late or absent.
  • Be sure that if you are absent to send an email to the Director.

Opening, Closing, and Shift Change Procedures

  • Reference service begins at the time stated in the semester's reference schedule.
  • Set out the hot pink Please Bother Me sign and your Librarian on Duty sign.
    • You may need to move the "Librarians are available..." sign so that it is not visible while you are near by.  
      • Consider displaying the "Librarians are available..." sign when you are out of sight of the Help Zone to encourage students to ask for Research Help during shift schedule.
  •  Turn on the Research Help computer and sign in using your username and password.
  • Bring up the LibAnalytics online Reference Services Contact form.
    • Tip: Consider using FireFox browser for this form, it will repopulate basic information after a submission to save time when entering contacts.
  • Consider signing in to the Library Staff Portal in Desire2Learn for quick access to Reference and department links & discussions.
  • Check the wireless telephone voicemail for any messages and respond to them as soon as possible.
  • Librarians are entitled to 15-minute breaks when working a four-hour desk shift.
    • Please inform the Help Zone when taking your break so students can be informed when you are available.
  • Shut down the Reference Desk computer(s).
  • Set out on one of the desk ledges the "Librarians are available..." sign.
  • Make sure the wireless phone is put away and connected to the charger.
  • Check with Help Zone employees if they need assistance in closing.
  • Set out your name sign.
  • Sign in on the Research Help computer.
  • Make sure your computer is signed in to the Library Staff Portal in Desire2Learn to use Quicklinks.
  • Bring up the LibAnalytics online Reference Services Contact form.
  • Check the telephone voicemail for any messages and respond to them as soon as possible.
  • The librarian leaving the desk should inform the librarian coming onto the desk about any ongoing questions or students who may need additional assistance.
  • Evening, Fridays, and Weekend Shifts:
    • Be sure to log into LibAnswers to check for Email questions and reply to Follow-up Chats as needed.
      • If you have time to review LCC Student chats with partner librarians who did not mark them as Follow-up, respond if more helpful info to the student can be considered.
    • Check your email for SS-LibRef emails coming in that have been forwarded from another Library team as an Email Research Help question or it may have come from the Serials Solutions Article Linker set up.  See Reference Types > Email page "Problem Link Report"
      • Be sure to add this to the online Reference Contact form as an Email contact after you respond.

Faculty Requests for Scheduling Instruction

Occasionally, faculty may come to the Reference Desk to request an instruction lesson lead by a librarian or use of the Instruction Classroom, TLC 218. All requests are now done online via the Library Instruction Request Form. If there are any questions in regards to scheduling, please refer them to the Instructional Services Librarian.

Further information on instruction sessions is available under the Instruction Tab.

Desk Tools

  • PDF flash drive -- save Words files as PDFs
  • Keys to door and cabinets in TLC 218
  • Writing utensils, scissors, sticky notes, paper clips, etc.
  • Calendar
  • Folder of Noteworthy copies of class assignments near the calendar
  • Items under the Plexiglas: public services schedule, emergency information, and frequently called telephone numbers

An orange dot on the spine of each book denotes Quick References. Some frequently used items are:

  • APA and MLA handbooks
  • Almanacs and maps
  • Dictionary and thesaurus
  • Statistical Abstract of the U.S.
  • Encyclopedia of Associations
  • LC classification outline
  • MAPs -- LCC Campus, MSU, and downtown libraries
  • Missing Materials Report
  • Periodical Request forms
  • Requests for reconsideration
  • Shelf reading alert form
  • Telephone information and more
  • Library handouts and bookmarks
  • Switches for blinds and lights
  • Wireless telephone and iPad in locked drawer (key to drawer located at Checkout Desk or you may request a key of your own from the department office staff)

Common Assignments