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LPM Cheat Sheet: Things to Know

Customer Service Guidelines and Expectations for USU Libraries Peer Mentors: Info Desk

Please remember that to the library user or visitor, you represent the library. We will all be judged by your actions. Therefore, do all you can to maintain a positive public image.

USU Libraries is a professional working environment where the goal is to help our users meet their academic, research, and computing needs. The dress, bearing, and behavior of our personnel should reflect this important service.

Remember that many people are new to large academic libraries. The library can be very intimidating. Even the most basic question, while routine to us, is important to the person asking it. Respect the patron's level of experience and their desire to learn more. Be patient and sympathetic.

Appear approachable and professional.

  • Many people are hesitant to ask for help. Be aware of people approaching the desk and ask if they need assistance.
  • Wear an appropriate lanyard with name badge so it can be seen easily.
  • Do not become overly involved in your work on the computer or reading material.
  • While you can certainly say “hello” to friends and classmates, do not become engaged in personal conversations, in person or on the phone.
  • Talk in a low voice so as not to disturb other patrons.
  • Do not play music or games at the desk. This includes not using headphones.
  • Do not talk or text on your cell phone while at the desk. If you have an emergency, you can always step away from the desk to use your cell phone.
  • Do not have friends work with you behind the desk.

Semi-professional dress is required. Please dress appropriately.

  • Clean, neat hair.
  • Wear clean, neat clothing in good repair.
  • Avoid cutoffs, short shorts or super-miniskirts.
  • Gym clothes (sweatpants, running shorts, muscle shirts) are not appropriate.
  • No crop tops or overly low cut shirts, or visible undergarments.
  • Wear shoes (no bare feet).
  • No sunglasses.
  • No hats.
  • No gum.

Phones should be answered, "Merrill-Cazier Library Reference Desk, how may I help you?"

  • Be sure to speak slowly and clearly at all times, especially when repeating information to a patron.
  • If a patron has been on hold for a while, let them know you haven't forgotten them.
  • If you cannot immediately assist a patron, acknowledge his or her presence and indicate you or someone else will be with him or her momentarily. Some good phrases to use are: "I'll be with you as soon as I can." Or, "Be with you in a moment." When you start helping them, say something like, "Sorry to keep you waiting, what can I do for you?" This guideline also applies when you are helping patrons in person in the library.

Listen to the question.

Active listening is an important part of our job. Be sure to listen to the whole question; don't assume you know what the patron wants after listening for a few seconds. Do not interrupt the person as they are asking their question. If the question seems strange or weird to you, don't laugh or comment. Ask courteously for clarification if you need it.

When answering a question, communicate what you are doing.

  • This is especially important for questions that come in over the phone. Tell the patron what you are doing/will do to assist him/her (i.e., "Give me a second to log into the online catalog, and I'll see if I can find the book you are looking for."). If the patron is at the info desk, walk them through your process. Turn the monitor so they can see the steps. You can also invite them to come behind the desk and watch what you are doing.
  • If a problem arises, refer to a librarian or a supervisor. Phone numbers of all Library staff and librarians are on the Info Desk of the Merrill-Cazier Library and the library website.

Take notes.

If you're working with someone on a computer or reference question, write down what you've told them - this could include names of databases, websites, a person's name and phone number, the title of a book or journal. Write down the steps you took in answering a question so the user can go back and repeat the search on their own.

Avoid using library or technical jargon.

Remember that not everyone is familiar with technology in libraries, or libraries in general. If you have to use library jargon or a technical term, be sure to explain the term.

Notice patrons.

Who is in the library? If you see a patron a approaching the desk, turn to them and look at them. You might smile and ask “How may I help you?” This lets them know you are focused on them and that you are interested in being of assistance.

If you don't know the answer, ask a staff member, another LPM or a librarian if they know the answer or how to find the answer.

We all have different levels of knowledge about our resources, technology, and subjects. One great thing about working at USU Libraries is that you can always depend on staff and the librarians to help you if you don't know how to find something. The key is to ask when you need help!

When referring patrons to another library service desk or even somewhere else on campus, be sure to tell them why.

  • For example: "If you’re having trouble with you’re a-number and password, you'll need to speak to the IT Desk or call them at 435-797-4357.They can help you troubleshoot these tech issues.”
  • Or, "I'm not familiar with literature searches for a dissertation, though I might be able to get you started. But You’ll definitely want to talk to your subject librarian for an in-depth consultation."


Referring a question to a librarian does not mean you don't know how to do research or that you are unfamiliar with technology. The more you refer and listen to how the librarians work with patrons to find the right type of information they need, the more you will learn about research and evaluation of resources and information. This in turn will help you in your own coursework.

*Remember, a referral is not a failure.*


When you've finished helping the patron, make sure there is nothing else they need, and let them know they can come back for help.

Ask questions such as:

  • "Is there anything else you need today?"
  • "Was there something else I can help you find?"
  • "Did that answer your question?"
  • "Let me know if you need more help."
  • "If this doesn't work for you, come back and we'll try something different."

If the patron seems frustrated or unsatisfied, please ask the patron: "Would you like to speak to a librarian?" Please ask this question even if we are sitting at the desk with you.

Do what you can to satisfy the patron's needs or requests. If you cannot help the patron, tell him or her where and how they can obtain more help — direct them to the "Ask a Librarian" web page, provide a subject specialist's phone number, or give directions to the Circulation desk when appropriate.

Our goal is never to let the patron walk away from the desk without some kind of answer. This could be five articles they were looking for, or a call number range where they can browse for a book, or a name and phone number of a person in another library department who can help them.

Merrill-Cazier Library Primer: Jargon, Departments, & Services


  • BARN – Borrower’s Automated Retrieval Network – Automated storage system for older books and bound journals in the library.  Request items online in the catalog or Encore.
  • Encore – A consolidated search box found on the homepage that incorporates several resources, including the library catalog and some databases.
  • Library Catalog – Search tool for the library’s collections. If you want to find a book or journal, this is the place to do it! (Does NOT index book chapters or individual articles)
  • Libguides – Online research guides
  • Microfiche/microfilm – Film reels or cards with miniaturized copies of mostly old newspapers and magazines
  • Stacks – book shelves
  • Periodicals/Serials – something issued in installments: newspapers, magazines, journals, etc.
  • Databases – Search tool for magazine, newspaper and journal articles
  • Information Literacy (Info Lit) - set of abilities required to digest information successfully; including the ability to locate, evaluate, access and analyze information
  • Periodical – A publication that appears at fixed intervals
  • Journal – A periodical, usually a scholarly publication
  • LibGuides – Online guides librarians create that are hosted on third party site and linked in student’s canvas page (under “research help”) and on our home page
  • LibAnswers – Searchable library FAQ’s, linked on our homepage
  • Microfiche/microfilm – reels or cards of information that must be magnified and illuminated to read (often newspapers or theses/dissertations)
  • Serials – A publication issued periodically
  • ALA, ULA, ACRL – Professional library associations


Interlibrary Services (ILS/ILL/Resource Sharing and Document Delivery)

  • Attains materials we do not own from other libraries at the request of patrons. Also delivers PDFs of articles and book chapters to graduate students and faculty.


  • The online log-in system to request items via interlibrary services or document delivery.


  • Houses building supervisors, manages patron accounts and fines, and checks out materials to patrons. Also provides iPads, laptops, and locker rentals to patrons.


  • Acquires materials for the library.


  • Manages library collections, including troubleshooting e-resources issues.


  • Organizes materials and holdings; makes items searchable by adding them to the online catalog.

Special Collections and Archives (SCA)

  • Collects, preserve and makes available unique and historic items, especially items of local interest. Includes Old Ephraim’s skull, the University Archives and the Fife Folklore Archives.

Media Collection & Reserves

  • Houses course reserves (items put on hold for classes), films, audio recordings, and headphones for checkout. Also transfer media, such as VHS to DVD, for a fee. 

Serials (Journals & Newspapers Desk)

  • Houses periodicals, thesis binding, and the most used BARN service point.


  • Coordinate IT issues throughout the library, such as work computers, software needs and the library website.

Digital Initiatives

  • Digitized USU materials. Comprised of Digital Commons (USU scholarly material) and the Digital Collections (USU archival material).

Reference & Instruction

  • Help patrons find what they need through Info Desk work, consultations, and library instruction classes.

Governement Documents

  • Houses government publications and prints topo maps and posters.

USU Press

  • Publishes academic books.


Circulation – check out books, iPads or laptops; rent lockers

Document delivery – get PDFs of articles or book chapters we own sent to you

Library instruction – learn how to do research during class; usually classes (English, Education, Engnieering, etc.) come to the library for these librarian-led sessions

Reference – get research help at the Info Desk, or set up a consultation with a librarian-expert

Subject librarians – consult with a librarian who specializes in your major; we have subject librarians for every major at USU

Topographic maps/topo maps – print out a detailed giant backcountry map in Government Documents

Course Reserves – borrow course material for three hours at a time (if your instructor has placed items on reserve)

Interlibrary loan – request items the library doesn’t own; interlibrary services will borrow them from another library just for you

Special Collections – discover unique and historical materials in the library’s archives; while you cannot checkout these items, you can often easily scan them



Adapted from the Leavey Library, Student Navigation Assistant Manuals University of Southern California

December 2003

July 2015: Updated by Nathalie De La Cruz & Andrea Krebs