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New Welcome Desk in Widener

The service point is made possible with a grant from the S.T. Lee Innovation Fund to improve access to information and the experience of using library resources at Harvard.

Student being helped at new Widener service desk

On Tuesday, August 29, Services for Academic Programs (SAP) launched a pilot service point in the front lobby of Widener Library to greet, direct, and assist researchers and visitors at the first point of contact. This pilot is funded by an S.T. Lee Innovation Award from the Harvard Library and will be staffed for the same hours as the current Information Desk in the Circulation Room.

SAP designed this pilot because researchers and visitors currently enter Widener Library and find no obvious path to get to a service point where they can have their needs met, or even an intuitively obvious way to figure out where the books are. We have often heard from researchers that the front lobby of Widener, while beautiful, does not reveal how they can navigate the library. It is hoped this pilot will mitigate researchers’ navigation quandaries when they enter the flagship library, providing a welcoming and approachable environment.

The pilot will run for one academic year with a strong emphasis on user experience and assessment. Staff will collect and analyze data, engaging with researchers to gain insight into user experience. The pilot project maps directly to two of the Strategic Objectives in Action of the Harvard Library: #2: Access and Discovery, and #3: Research, Teaching, and Learning.

For those interested in the history of Widener Library, there is precedent for a service point being in the front lobby. As illustrated in the 1943 photo titled "Widener Library reading room delivery desk," a service desk once stood in the northeast corner of the lobby, where the security guard's desk is now located. Visible in the photo is a brass desktop sign, "Information," clearly indicating that the desk offered information services. The pilot service point is considerably smaller than the 1943 version, and is mobile, so it’s removable when not staffed.

We welcome your suggestions for the new service point! Please stop by soon.

By Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Harvard College Library. 

Published on September 6, 2017.