m-Libraries Conference 2009, Second International m-libraries Conference

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Ask Us Upstairs: Bringing roaming reference to the Paley Stacks

Fred Rowland, Adam Shambaugh

Last modified: 2009-06-22


This study will detail the Temple University Libraries’ “Ask Us Upstairs” initiative to bring roving reference to the patrons of Paley Library using wireless mobile devices as well as traditional roving reference methods. We will provide a brief review of the extant literature on wireless mobile technology in reference service, consider traditional methods of engaging patrons in reference transactions, discuss our planning and implementation process, and then offer the results of the pilot project we began on December 2, 2008.


Temple’s 2006 LibQual Survey indicated the need to improve user experience in the stacks of Paley Library where the bulk of our print collection is housed and which students use for individual and group study. While we have a thriving Reference Desk, students often require assistance once they are in the stacks retrieving books, doing research, or using a computer. In addition, wireless technology and mobile Internet access present a great opportunity to reach out to students who are reluctant to seek assistance through other channels.


A rotating six member team from our Reference and Instructional Services Department follow an advertised route through the library stacks, group study areas, and public computer workstations from 10-12 and 2-4 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Equipped with iPod Touch technology and wearing “ASK ME” buttons, we selectively approach students looking for material in the stacks, using the library’s electronic resources, or others who appear to need help. Approaching these students is done with a simple question designed to generate a reference transaction. We try to be recognizable as we make our rounds without being obtrusive.


Our study will present an overview of our strategies for navigating the stacks, utilizing mobile devices for research and reference help, and the outcomes of our efforts to meet the needs of this user group.

Full Text: Power Point Presentation