Tag Archives: reference desk

Revisiting the Feng Shui of information organization and web design and that whole thing…

Last week the English program had a humorous email conversation about the new Grand Theft Auto release. It sparked some discussion about gaming and learning, a topic that librarians have been geeking out about for quite a while. How can we get students to engage with our online presence and electronic resources with the same motivation and enthusiasm they bring to gaming? The repeat and learn, repeat and learn, pattern of building game knowledge and skills without instruction/direction….why, oh why don’t they do that with library databases? the catalog?…etc. How can we make our library site a world that young and old want to enter and move through? This could happen, right?! And should they have avatars….fun questions about technology and access and site design and learning and service that go on and on.

I’m reminded of a library school paper (oh, boy), I think it was for an organization of information class. I wanted to connect Feng Shui principles to information architecture and web design…and learning environments and on and on (I’ll see if I can dig it up, this is the only MLS paper I ever saw where the instructor commented  “‘A’ for effort”).  I did find lots on interesting material on the various elements, but only one mention specifically of Feng Shui in information design (I think- I better find the paper). 

Why Feng Shui? As I recall this sprang not just from a personal interest in Feng Shui and a lingering desire to be some kind of guru, but from experiences with file management and reorganizing shared drives and folders at the WOU library and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training curriculum unit. When organizations grow there’s a tipping point where the homegrown system that used to be fine just isn’t working for all of the new hires who don’t realize that the state mandated safety training curriculum is kept in a file called “Diana’s Stuff”.

Principles of clutter clearing and connections to calm (oh, that’s annoying) are so apparent when trying to navigate through a shared mess of electronic documents. Frantic, a lot of extra clicking, I think it was here, or was it here, multiple documents named multiple things, which is the current draft…I’m guessing we’ve all been here at some point. And how nice and peaceful is it to have these same documents (and your website, of course) arranged in a way that lets you move to and from what you need with ease and not a lot of energy drain. 

Librarians think about these same principles in keeping our reference desk clutter free with an inviting physical structure. The microfilm box, binders, multiple handouts, scanner, barcode reader, phones, stacks of papers…not inviting. I’m not a neat freak (if you want personal testimonies, let me know), but clutter drains energy from patrons when they approach a desk and creates a barrier.  Ahhh, my new reference desk , just like this description of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum” displays a comprehensive collection of artwork by this sculptor in a tranquil setting created by the artist” (…in a tranquil catalog created by the librarian….). Actually, if our print collections go the way of muscle cars and Tang (i.e., available but eccentric), we’ll have room for this. 

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