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Final Presentation LIS 6120

Final Presentation LIS 6120

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  • 1. Adult Reference Services in a Small-town Public Library Reflections on My Observation Experience Molly Moeller Wayne State University, LIS 6120
  • 2. Introduction Historically, libraries have served as vital institutions for preserving important social records, organizing various types of information, providing equitable access to literature and educational materials, and promoting the pursuit of knowledge in the spirit of intellectual freedom and equal learning opportunities for all. Today, while the traditional ideals have remained intact, libraries have evolved significantly to keep pace with the changing needs and interests of a mobile, tech-savvy clientele. The reference librarian, in particular, has had to adapt and to grow as information becomes increasingly available electronically.
  • 3. The Reference Librarian’s Evolving Role The digital age has inspired questions about the continuing need for library services. As more people are able to access information on their own, will reference assistance become obsolete? In an article from the Chicago Tribune chronicling last year’s ALA conference, reporter Chris Borrelli wrote, “Yes, the neighborhood reference desk lives. Nay, thrives. But not how you remember it.” Based on my observations for this assignment, I would have to agree. Reference services continue to play an essential role in the overall effectiveness of the library environment. How they are delivered, however, has evolved.
  • 4. Description of Library The library at which I spent time for my observation is located in a small town with a population of about 4,000 people. It serves a district comprised of five municipalities and nearly 20,000 residents, of whom almost 13,000 are active library cardholders. There are over 117,000 items in the collection, and about 41,000 materials checked out each month. In addition to various print and electronic resources, the library offers a technology center, public meeting rooms, and numerous programs and special events for children, teens and adults throughout the year. The adult reference staff is comprised of the department head, “Beth,” and four part-time staff members, all of whom are professional librarians.
  • 5. Initial Impressions I was able to observe the adult reference services desk at different times of day on both weekdays and weekends. I discovered that regardless of day or time, the reference desk is a well-utilized resource in the community. While not intensely busy the way a public library in a large city might be, the librarians I observed were consistently assisting patrons throughout the day, either by telephone, in the technology area, or via the computers at the desk. A steady stream of library users consulted the staff with a variety of concerns; it was obvious that patrons felt comfortable approaching the desk, and that they held a sense of confidence in the skills of the librarians. This library has a reputable and meaningful presence in the community, which has much to do with the helpful attitude of the reference staff.
  • 6. Common Requests for Assistance • Help in locating specific books (sometimes with only minimal info about the story or characters) • Help in finding titles by favorite authors • Recommendations for books • Requests for “holds” on items to be picked up later • Guiding older students in researching topics (and conducting reference interviews to narrow the scope of info needed) • Assistance with technology (help w/ printers/scanners, help navigating different browsers, retrieving login info, providing guest passes for internet use) • Reserving meeting/study rooms • Help in locating specific resources (Consumer Reports, archived periodicals, etc.)
  • 7. Interesting Observations • The reference staff develops a summer reading program for adults each year, with interesting themes and opportunities for prizes for participants. They use requests for reading recommendations to promote the program and to generate excitement among patrons about the library’s collection. • The reference staff has put together a “Browsing Area”—solely comprised of paperbacks (older, popular titles previously weeded, donated materials); easy, light-weight books for patrons to casually pick up for a trip or day at the beach. • The reference staff has a group of “regulars” who spend hours per day, several days per week at the library. Harmless, but sometimes quirky, the regulars often want to “help” the staff with various duties, and feel a sort of kinship toward them.
  • 8. Conclusion In an article entitled “So Now What? The Future of Librarians,” Steve Coffman, Vice President of Library Support Services at Library Systems and Services, wrote of reference librarians, ““There's a lot we can bring to the table. First, we work on behalf of the patron . . . Second, we offer years of knowledge and experience. We know the sources, how to evaluate them . . . Finally, we've got the reputation. Although some of us have been trying to shake it for years, the word librarian and the image associated with it are inextricably bound up with books, reading, the pursuit of knowledge, and the life of the mind.” (Coffman, 2013). Today’s reference librarian is the human connection between the community and all that the library has to offer. It’s an essential role in the information landscape, and with a sense of commitment toward professional growth and welcoming technology into the library, one that will enable the neighborhood reference desk to continue to thrive.
  • 9. References Borrelli, Christopher. (2013, June 22). Reference lives on, no question. Chicago Tribune, Arts & Entertainment. Bopp, Richard E. and Smith, Linda C. (2011). Reference and Information Services: An Introduction. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. Coffman, Steve. (2013, January/February). So Now What?: The Future of Librarians. Online Searcher, p. 41.