Until now, every library in which I’ve worked has called the area from which readers are issued, and to which they return, books the ‘issue desk’. As the issuing of books takes place at this location, you’d think that this makes sense. But at my new library, they use other terminology which has subtly different implications.
They call it the ‘inquiry desk’.
It’s a small change, but a massive difference in scope and meaning. It draws attention to a greater array of activities taking place, and renders the space more welcoming to readers. An issue desk is staffed by people whose sole purpose, it would seem, is to transfer books between library and reader. An inquiry desk is staffed by people who want to help, and who are open to questions about everything. An issue desk is a cog in the impenetrable library machine. An inquiry desk faces outwards, bringing the readers into the library and making them a part of it.
Maybe I’m reading too much into one little word, but it seems clear to me that the language of libraries can be used deliberately and carefully to create inclusive and welcoming spaces. We need only be thoughtful about the meanings behind the names we choose to use.