Serving the DIY Patron: Library
Instruction at the Point of Need
Meredith Farkas, Portland State University
Don’t worry about taking notes!
Slides and links at
Help-seeking in libraries: a history
Search tools designed for the end-user
Self-checkout, patron-driven acquisitions, unmediated ILL, etc.
At the same time...
Plus, most millennials think
Information = Abundant
Time = Scarce
Attention = scarce
Do the traditional models still work
when information isn’t scarce?
Reference usage has declined
“According to Association of Research Library (ARL)
statistics, the number of reference transactions
taking place in ARL libraries has declined by
more than half since 1995. Control that statistic for
enrollment and the decline is greater: in 1995, ARL libraries
provided an average of 10.1 reference transactions per
student FTE; in 2009 the number was 3.6, a decline of
Anderson, Rick. (2011). “The Crisis in Research Librarianship” Journal of
Academic Librarianship, 37(4).
Reference transactions in U.S.
academic libraries Source: NCES
Reference transactions in public
libraries Source: NCES
Reference transactions in CA
public libraries Source: NCES
Reasons patrons might not ask
Low academic self-efficacy - asking for help means admitting they
Gender - girls “lose their voice” during adolescence
Lack of understanding of the role of the librarian (marketing
They are “DIY patrons”
The DIY patron
Wants to figure it out themselves
Is accustomed to using Google and other web services
Is accustomed to using quick help sites like WikiAnswers, Yahoo!
Wants things to be intuitive
Looks for pointers about how things work
“We desperately need to invest serious thought
and effort into ways that we will not only provide
access to information, but also maintain the
connections between the wired user and the
information expert to demonstrate that the added
value that we provide users in this informationsaturated environment is far greater than the
mere convenience of ‘getting it all online.’”
Brette Barclay Barron, “Distant and Distributed Learners Are Two Sides of
the Same Coin,” Computers in Libraries 22 (Jan. 2002): 24–28.
The answer then for reference
Disintermediate whenever possible
Develop instructional content that mimics answer services on the
web like Yahoo! Answers (small, specific bits of content)
Make that content available and easily findable at their points of
For academic/K-12 librarians: Embed instructional content into the
fabric of classes
Library DIY @ Portland State
Reference librarian in a box
Small pieces of instructional content
Based on questions we get at the reference desk
Each one answers just one question
If in-depth help needed, link out
Information architecture gets students to just the info they’re looking
Response and next steps
User testing in winter
Placement and marketing to make it visible at students’ points of
On the library website
In the library
And how findable is this?
Links to tutorials
Under research resources/start your research
Under help/research help
Under Library Services --> Instruction
Unfindable from some library websites
Get in their flow
Where might patrons look for/need
help on your library website?
Ask a Librarian page
Any help type of pages
Databases page (and inside databases)
Webpages for specific services (ILL, gov docs, etc.)
“The library needs to be in the
user environment and not expect
the user to find their way to the
library environment”-Lorcan Dempsey
Go where your users are
in the Learning Management System (LMS)
on an Intranet
in any local social networks or relevant community websites
on mobile devices
in computer labs (on the desktop)
Link patrons to library instructional
content where they need it
In the library
In the stacks, places people get lost
By collections patrons have trouble using
Machines patrons have issues with
Other places people have information needs
Buses, business support organizations, daycare centers,
community centers, high schools, academic department offices,
residence halls, computer labs, etc.
Short for Quick Response
Originally developed for
Need a QR code reader
Scan a QR code to access
info or take action
Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated
Questions and Answers. Reference & User
Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.
Placed posters with QR codes in the library in places where patrons
For the journals area: Poster says “How do I...
find older issues of the journal?
find the call number for the journal I need?
find a scanner?
find a copy machine?
get more help?
QR Codes are a stopgap
Near Field Communications
A way for devices to receive
information at close range
RFID is an example
User no longer has to take the
initiative to scan
In the meantime
Use QR codes with shortened URLs
(bit.ly, goo.gl, tinyURL, etc.)
Another way to reach DIY
Embed information literacy instruction seamlessly into the DNA of
Create learning objects, activities, and self-paced tutorials that
faculty can easily integrate into their courses
Embed library instruction meaningfully into classes (beyond the
Requires a tremendous amount of relationship-building with
faculty + time
Find me at
mgfarkas (at) gmail.com
Slides and links at