or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Open To All ~ At All Times

   April 9th, 2009

Open To All ~ At All Times signThe biggest oversight when my library was built was that they only put in one Quiet Study Room.

It is constantly in use, and constantly in demand. Because people want a quiet place to close the door and spread out, we do what we can to accommodate them - or they do.

When otherwise not in use, we let people use the Conference Room as a quiet study room. We also have a Local History Room, and many people decide to go in there and close the door.

And this is the root of the latest controversy in my library. Our Local History Room contains our local history resources, and, by library policy, is Open To All* patrons whenever the library is open. Which means anyone can go into this room, and if someone is already in there, they have to share.

However, we've recently had a spate of patrons closing the door and telling other patrons the room was reserved, and they couldn't come in. This confused patrons and irritated staff, so we finally had to put signs up on the Local History Room door to very clearly spell out our policy.

As you may know, I have a reputation for taking down signs, so I wanted to make sure this sign was clear and effective - and I think it is. Since it went up, we haven't had any problems. People still go in and close the door, but no more intra-patron intimidation, and that is a good thing.

Oh and by the way, I hung a sign both on the outside as well as on the inside of the door - that way when someone does close the door, they can't claim they didn't see the sign.


*I was inspired by the entrance to the library in Groton, MA.


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5 Responses to “Open To All ~ At All Times”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I recently discovered your blog and have been enjoying it so much. I especially like the reference question of the week, which I’ve directed my husband (we’re both librarians) too as well. Bad signage is a peeve of mine as well and I’ve also been known to discreetly remove them!

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Sarah: Thanks, and I’m glad you like my website. I liked yours too – I added it to the (google custom search engine) Book Review Search on my library’s Reading Room page.

  3. Friday Link Round Up « ellie <3 libraries Says:

    […] Open To All ~ At All Times […]

  4. Cari Says:

    I’m jealous that you have ONE study room! We don’t have any. We do allow people to use the meeting room space if it is available, but so often those rooms are full. The local history room ends up serving a similar purpose as yours. But I’ve never had patrons try to smoke other patrons out like that.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Cari: Not having any study room must be tough – we’re actually considering a bit of construction (in our long-range plan) to add more. We also allow people to use the meeting room, if it’s not otherwise in use – but since groups take priority with the meeting room, that is strictly hit-or-miss.

    Hmm. I know lots of schools use “mobile classrooms” – I wonder if libraries should investigate mobile study rooms.