Changes in Reference Services in Academic Health Sciences Libraries Ellie Gehman Decline in Reference Questions In the past years, the number of reference questions in health sciences libraries has declined. This decline can be seen in all user groups (faculty/staff, students, and other). With the growing prevalence of search engines like Google, more and more people are taking their questions to the Internet. Types of Virtual Reference Services Academic health sciences libraries utilize virtual reference services in four formats: e-mail, web forms, chat, and instant messaging, In 2007, 99% of libraries offered asynchronous reference but only 43% offered synchronous reference services. Figure 2. Change in academic health sciences libraries offering chat reference services from 2002 to 2004 Figure 1. Decline in reference transactions at University of Illinois Crawford Library of the Health Sciences at Rockford from 1990-2009 Figure 3. Types of virtual reference services offered in academic health sciences libraries Figure 4. Reference transaction flowchart in the PICS model Discussion of Future in Academic Health Sciences Libraries Despite the changes seen with many health sciences libraries adopting some form of digital reference service, the majority of questions are still asked in person. Librarians need to carefully analyze and consider their patron population to determine whether or not virtual reference is a service that will benefit their community. Budget and labor constraints remain barriers to adopting new reference services, whether the approach is to implement digital tools or to redesign the traditional reference services by using an embedded librarian model. Reference services will continue to change over the coming years as both technology and people’s perceptions change. References Barrett FA. An analysis of reference services usage at a regional academic health sciences library. J Med Libr Assoc. 2010 Oct;98(4):308-11. Cleveland AD, Philbrick JL. Virtual reference services for the academic health sciences librarian 2.0. Med Ref Serv Q. 2007;26(S1):25-49. Dee CR. Digital reference service. Med Ref Serv Q. 2005;24(1):19-27. Dee CR, Newhouse JD. Digital chat reference in health science libraries. Med Ref Serv Q. 2005;24(3):17-27. De Groote SL. Questions asked at the virtual and physical health sciences reference desk. Med Ref Serv Q. 2005;24(2):11-23. Schulte SJ. Eliminating traditional reference services in an academic health sciences library: a case study. J Med Libr Assoc. 2011 Oct;99(4):273-9. Increase in Libraries Offering Chat The number of health sciences libraries offering chat/IM (Instant Messaging) services has increased. The number has most likely increased even more since the data provided here (2002-2004) as people have become more accustomed to distance services. Redefining Traditional Reference In 2009, the Prior Health Sciences Library at the Ohio State University adopted a model of reference service called the Personalized Information Consult Service that eliminated the reference desk (except for basic reference at the ASK desk) and provided in-depth reference by appointment with liaison librarians assigned to specific colleges within the university.