I've talked about how libraries and librarianship is a service oriented/people profession in the past. I've written about handling difficult patrons, pondered where the customer service/pedagogy line should be at the reference desk, why I know my customer service skills from waitressing have made me a better librarian, and about the need to keep gossiping down to a minimum while in the public eye. Some might say that I've talked about it enough already, ad nauseum really, but there's something I've been considering lately that I think needs to be discussed.
And here it is: if the library is open, the circulation desk needs always to be staffed. Period. End of story. What's that? You think this is a no brainer? I know it might seem that way, but I see empty circ desks everywhere I go. I know there are tasks to be done off desk and that it can be hard to concentrate on the desk, even when there's nobody about, but I also know that being at the desk isn't just about taking care of the people who are there. More than once, I've heard "but I can see if there's anybody there" as a defense for sitting in an office and not at the desk. I heard this even before starting my career in libraries, all the way back to a previous life when I was an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant. (For the record, I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the restroom or grab something from your desk or show a patron where something is in the stacks. I'm realistic. But if you're going to step away for a moment, make sure it really is just a moment.)
The thing is, staffing the desk is not about you (or another member of the library staff) seeing the customer/patron/community member. Well... it's not JUST about that. It's also about you being seen by the customer. Think about it this way: if you don't have an urgent question, are you really going to go hunt someone down? Or are you just going to assume that nobody is available and skip asking all together and not even approach the desk? Would you expect more from someone in your community? We need to do more than *be* available. We also need to appear available.
To my way of thinking, appearances count, hugely. Perception *is* reality for our customer base/community.
Or am I completely off the mark?