Friday, April 17, 2009

What's behind the Service Desk

As the end of the semester creeps closer and students and faculty alike grow crazier, I've begun to notice something: People rarely know what's available for them behind the Service Desk. Let's change that today.

The first thing I have to say is that the majority of stuff behind the Service Desk is for the librarians, little things that we all need to do our jobs -- forms, DDC 20 (basically an outline of the entire Dewey Decimal Classification system to, like, 12 decimal points), the phone, videophone, and TTY we use for general inquiries, stuff like that.

However, there is still plenty for students and staff, some of which might be fairly surprising. The thing is, the shape of the Service Desk is both a blessing and a curse. Because it has little aisles that are bent at odd angles, we have more shelf space available back there than if it were just a straight row of shelves, which makes the Service Desk pretty versatile with plenty of space. On the other hand, it's pretty hard to see very much of what actually is back there without approaching the Desk with your head at just the right angle, which makes it difficult for anyone (even new librarians) to know what's available.

So let's take a look at what's available behind the Service Desk, whether it's perfectly visible or tucked away in a hinky corner. To proceed in a rational order, I'll start with the west side of the Service Desk, the end closest to Peet Hall and the brand-new pile of smoking rubble.

First, we come to the Lost & Found shelf right behind the west staff computer. It's a good shelf, quite possibly seen as beautiful by those who may have forgotten something important -- like USB drives containing the all-important final papers that open the last door to graduation, student IDs that were just about to be used to buy lunch, binders full of student portfolios, DVDs, and mysterious shoeboxes. If you think you may have lost something among the stacks, in rooms 1404 or 1225, at the public computers, or in a carrel, the Lost & Found shelf should be the first place you check, especially if it's been a day or two since the missing item may have been mislaid. Items left on the shelf for more than a few days get sent to DPS, so don't delay.

Around the corner from the Lost & Found are some reserve shelves. First are the personal copies -- sometimes, when we don't have the item a professor wants to reserve for a class, they'll bring in their own personal copies, which are kept separate from the books and films we do own on reserve. Below that are local atlases of northern Virginia, eastern Maryland, and DC itself, which I've found come in handy when plotting out weekend trips (I'm old-school; Google Maps is nice but you get tired of trading off between the right zoom level and the amount of clicking and dragging).

Next to the personal faculty reserve copies and atlases are the book reserves. All Library books placed on reserve for the semester are located here, as well as books placed on permanent reserve, of which there are plenty; those books also have copies in the stacks, available for checkout, but a copy is kept on permanent reserve so there's always one available. Here's a listing of the books available on a permanent basis, with links to the ALADIN Catalog record and a brief description if the title isn't very self-explanatory.

Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness
Dictionary of Worldwide Gestures -
A compilation of gestures commonly used around the world to express emotion
Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America
Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood
New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy -
A collection of cultural references, their origins, and their meanings
The Eagle Soars to Enlightenment -
An illustrated history of the California School for the Deaf, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Fremont
Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders
Gallaudet Almanac
World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association - The complete guide to publication in APA format
Concise Rules of APA Style - Essentially a more user-friendly cheat-sheet version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary

To check out any of the above, just ask at the Service Desk. Bear in mind that you may only check them out for up to 2 hours at a time, and they must be used in the Library, though an item on reserve may be renewed for another 2 hours if nobody else needs it. We do not allow these items to leave the building in order to ensure that they're always close to hand when needed.

Next to the reserve books, there's a pile of puzzles, ranging in complexity from 300 to 1,000 pieces, and thematically from Star Wars to the usual pastoral scenes, as well as a big box of Legos. You can request them if you're in the mood to spend an afternoon locking bits of cardboard or plastic together to relieve some stress. They're fixtures at our Study Nights, which happen at the end of every semester; on those nights, we're open for 24 hours straight and sometimes serve doughnuts and coffee. Students sometimes come in their pajamas and spend the night alternately napping, eating, playing, and cramming their brains out for the upcoming final exams.

Then we have stuff I've already discussed on this blog: the CLS shelves, Library-owned films on reserve, a swatch of headphones, remote controls, and magnifiers available for checkout, and the Hold shelf.

That about covers it for the Service Desk. Next week, we'll meet another librarian and discuss the subject areas she's responsible for.

Question of the Week
I've been looking and looking for a book by a popular comedian, and I can't find it anywhere! ALADIN says the Library doesn't have it, but I think it would be a good book to get and would like to request that the Library get it. Who's responsible for buying books? And how does that person decide what to buy?
The short answer is: all the librarians. But as with everything else, the truth is a little more complicated than that.

Five librarians are responsible for buying new materials (books, films, and other materials) for the Library; because the collection is so large, those five people split it up into specific subject areas, based on Gallaudet's academic departments, and only select ("select" is Librarianese for "buy") materials for their subject areas. If your book falls into any one of those areas, you can contact the librarian who's responsible for that subject and ask them directly. This works pretty well because it lets each of us focus more tightly on what the Library needs to get and what people want the Library to get on a subject-by-subject basis.

Here's a list of the five librarians and the academic departments they select for:
Diana Gates: ASL & Deaf Studies; Hearing, Speech & Language Sciences; Interpretation. Essentially, all deaf-related requests should go to her.
Laura Jacobi: Applied Literacy; Communication Studies; Counseling; Psychology; Social Work
James McCarthy (that's me!): Art; English; Theatre Arts; Popular
Patrick Oberholtzer: Biology; Business; Chemistry & Physics; Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures; Government & History; Math; Philosophy & Religion; Physical Education & Recreation
Jane Rutherford: Administration & Supervision; Education; Educational Foundations & Research; Family & Child Studies; First Year Experience; Honors; Computer Science

The question of "how" is a bit more nebulous. The criteria used to select resources vary from librarian to librarian; as a general rule, we try to look at what the collection needs, whether it's an updated edition of an old book or coverage of new theories that may have emerged in the field recently, which happens a lot in the sciences in particular. We also work with our academic departments to keep track of new course offerings and adjust our selection based on what kind of information those courses might need. It's also fairly common to get requests from both faculty and students and we do our best to fulfill those requests, given time and budgetary constraints.

And, of course, we help each other out! If I see a particularly interesting book that the Library doesn't have about why God didn't create the universe out of spaghetti (as He obviously should have) and it's a serious effort to explain the universe rather than a work of humor (which would be my specialty, Popular), I would give Patrick the book's information in case he's interested. If Patrick happens to see a particularly good manga adaptation of Twelfth Night, he would let me know about it (incidentally, we do have some manga adaptations of Shakespeare! That's another post, though ... ).

With all these different ways of deciding what to buy, we're pretty successful in covering almost everything the academic departments throw at us. If we still don't have it, request it! The easiest way to do that is to send an e-mail to We'll make sure your request gets to the right person.

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