A recent survey from the Project Information Literacy Progress Report found that only 30% of 8,353 college students spread across 25 campuses in the United States ask for help at their college’s Reference Desks.  And I, as an academic Research and Instruction Librarian find this percentage to be disturbing.  I wrote a paper in Library School about nonverbal language in the reference encounter, and discovered that two-thirds of what we communicate is done so noverbally.

I think academic libraries have done a great job of reconfiguring their physical reference desk spaces to be more welcoming, but we (Reference Librarians) still need to improve on our nonverbal communication skills.  I’m suggesting that if our collective nonverbal communication skills improved, students would be much more willing to approach the desk and ask for help.