My library presently has a two station reference desk, though I’ve yet to see it double staffed unless we were training.  One station is at standing height and the other is seated, though there’s a tall chair for the standing spot. I am almost always at the seated side because it is set up to allow me to remotely access my desktop computer–gaining me a smidge more productivity and keeping my flow from cube to reference desk a little more continuous.

We also have dual monitors–one facing us; one facing patrons. Occasionally, I’ll forget to shut the patron facing one off–to the amusement of my coworkers and students who’ll come past to see me flipping through my RSS feeds or cutting swaths through my inbox.

The challenge is when patrons need to type something. Quite often I find myself talking a patron through sign up to place books on hold or to place an interlibrary loan (sadly–two systems that don’t talk to each other). I prefer to hand over the keyboard to the patron at that point–it’s easier and faster than getting snail mail information from them and they have to enter a password anyway, so they’re getting the keyboard eventually.

But the cables aren’t really set up for this–neither is the desk–especially as I am sitting.  So it’s always a bit of a struggle and it raised a question for me: who types at your reference desk? For most searches at the desk, I type because a) I’m faster; b) I know where I’m going (usually) on the library homepage; and c) the physical layout isn’t conducive to sharing the keyboard.  This doesn’t really allow for on the spot patron education though–they can follow along but often I’m moving too quickly for it to be clear for them.

We also have an office where we do consultations as our cubes aren’t soundproof and they aren’t really laid out in such a way that I can have someone sit next to me by the computer. When I’m doing a consultation, I prefer to let the patron (faculty or student) drive the computer. To help stop me from stepping in and takin gover, I asked and got a second mouse for the consult room.  Now I can point via mouse but the patron still needs to take action.

When you’re working with one of your patrons, who drives the mouse and keyboard? If them–how do you stop yourself from stepping in?