We’re having conversations again as we move to new models and bring the library forward, attempting to stay relevant in a world of changing information needs and information access. One of the recent conversations revolved around changes in services, including the ability for patrons to browse our storage area and a stack retrieval service. This in turn lead to a discussion on saving time vs. serendipity.
We all want our patrons to find what they need and this can be accomplished in a number of ways, mainly searching and finding. Searching requires the use of the library catalogue, Google or even a librarian. Finding may also include Google but there is often more serendipity involved. There is an obvious desire for serendipitous finding, hence the feedback from patrons for the ability to browse journals in our storage. Stack retrieval however, may hamper some of this serendipitous finding. Part of the joy of getting a book for your research, at least for me, is going to the stacks and finding another book that fits your research by chance. Are we doing a disservice by getting the book for them? Are we limiting their finding ability? I know many libraries offer stack retrieval and it is certainly something our patrons are asking for – it is a great time saver to call ahead and get the book pulled so that it is ready and waiting for you. Of course, stack retrieval will not stop patrons from going to the stacks themselves but it will be interesting to see how this service will affect circulation numbers.
Despite the question of saving time vs. serendipity, I am glad to see that our library is moving to answer the needs and requests of our patrons. We have lots of other changes in services coming too but that is another blog post or two for the future.