The Public Library as an (Almost) Open-Source Institution

Attempting Change From Within

The One-Desk Model

To my organization's credit, though, they recognized things weren't working, and constructed a new service model, collapsing what were many desks in many places in the buildings into a single desk in each building where all functions could be taken care of and questions answered. The idea was to be able to free up the degreed librarians to pursue more programming options, community and school contacts, and to be able to do the in-depth think-work that produces really good library service. Non-degreed staff would be trained in how to answer most basic reference questions in addition to their duties regarding handling people accounts, monies, and the less glamourous tasks of running a library.

And then the recession hit. This had the general effect of soaking all those paper cuts the library was suffering from in salt brine. The single-desk model went forward, but instead of librarians having lots of non-public time to plot and go out into the community soliciting information and doing cool things, the librarians were used to fill holes in the desk model, and a new model emerged that, at those institutions that had them, at least one degreed librarian would have to be on the floor during all the hours the library was open. This fragmented the librarians' schedules and often achieved the opposite effect than the one that was intended with the single-desk model.