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The Current State of Reference

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How has the rapid evolution of digital tools and information access changed the reference landscape? What will reference look like in 2, 5, and 10 years?

On Wednesday, March 19, the Special Library Association held a free SAGE-Sponsored SLA PartnerTalk Webinar featuring Elisabeth Leonard, Market Research Analyst for SAGE. The webinar unveiled the results of a SAGE study in North American special and academic libraries about numerous high-impact factors and challenges facing the information industry.

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The Current State of Reference

  1. 1. The current state of reference: Select results of the global reference survey Elisabeth Leonard, MSLS, MBA Market Research Analyst, SAGE Twitter: @ElisabethAnn, #RefTalk @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  2. 2. Agenda  Budgets  Perceptions of reference  Questions and comments @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  3. 3. What I did  Invitations to complete the survey were sent to various listservs, including publib, colldev, acqnet, and SLA chapter lists globally.  Email invitations were sent to 800 reference, collection development, and acquisition librarians.  There were 32 questions.  Completed surveys were eligible to win an iPad mini.  Followed up with interviews and focus groups. @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  4. 4. Demographics Demographics  471 responses (600+ came to the first page)  90% came from North America, 6% from Asia Pacific, 2% from Europe, 1% from South America, and 0.5% from Africa.  58% were from academic libraries, 13% from corporate libraries, 12% from government or military libraries, and 1% from school libraries. @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  5. 5. Trends: budgets @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  6. 6. Reference budgets: last 5 years Academic Public Special Increased 10% 15% 12% Stayed the same 34% 15% 29% Decreased 49% 65% 49% Don’t know 7% 5% 9% @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  7. 7. Reference budgets: next 5 years Academic Public Special Increase 10% 6% 18% Stay the same 34% 44% 32% Decrease 54% 50% 44% Don’t spend now 1% 0% 5% Eliminated 0.6% 0% 0.9% @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  8. 8. Comparing trends in special libraries 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Increased Stayed the same Decreased Don’t know Last 5 years Next 5 years @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  9. 9. General trends: budgets Libraries are consolidating their budget lines, with some no longer including a separate budget line for reference Spending often comes out of subject funds and e-resources fund A preference for e-reference Growth to support new programs Reduction because of journals spend and increased e-resources spend Importance of one time funds @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  10. 10. Spending comes from subject funds “We have not had a reference budget for some time now. Reference resources that are acquired now come out of subject area budgets along with any resources needed for that area.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  11. 11. Funds move to e-resources line  “Although the amount of the reference budget is probably about the same, the type of materials purchases are quite different. We used to spend considerable money on paper monographs, standing orders, and reference serials. We spend very little on any of those, but much of the money we spent has now been transferred into the budget for online resources.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  12. 12. Consolidation of budget lines “We continue to purchase reference materials but we don't have a separate "reference" budget line. We engaged in some reorganization a few years ago, and that included folding many separate small budget lines into fewer, larger, ones.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  13. 13. A preference for e-reference “We have a shared fund for purchases of online resources - many of which are A&I databases and thus 'reference'. But they are not charged to our 'reference' fund. Our 'reference' fund is only for print material. So our online reference buying is increasing each year. Our print reference buying is holding steady or decreasing.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  14. 14. Growth from new programs “Our budget was cut last year, but we will be gaining 3 new residency programs. Therefore, in certain areas, I think our budget will increase to meet GME requirements.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  15. 15. Importance of one time funds “We've seen fluctuations in our reference purchasing because, though we have definitely seen cuts in the amount of monies we spend, we've also been the beneficiaries of one-time money which has then been used to purchase all sorts of materials, including reference materials. This has had the overall effect of off-setting cuts in the budget.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  16. 16. “E” (and a little print) Academic Public Special Print only 0.5% 0% 3% Print preferred 4% 5% 6% Online only 7% 0% 11% Online preferred 68% 35% 50% No preference 22% 60% 31% No longer purchase reference 1% 0% 5% @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  17. 17. Perceptions of reference @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  18. 18. Who is reference for  Undergraduates more than graduates  Research faculty more than teaching faculty  Doctors more than nurses @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  19. 19. Who is reference for? “Sometimes the requests come from patrons, but more often from colleagues (after dealing with patrons and noticing a need) and professors.” @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  20. 20. But they do ask for  Subject handbooks  Databases  Encyclopedias  Dictionaries  Updated editions As well as journals, articles and textbooks @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  21. 21. But is it “reference”?  “We have tried to use the term [reference] less since today's students do not identify with the term. I also find for my business students that encyclopedias, handbooks and the like are not necessary items. They need industry report, market report types of resources. They use the article databases, but frankly they can find so much on the open web, that even those article databases are only half as valuable as they once were.” Business Librarian, Academic Library, USA @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  22. 22. Perceptions of awareness @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  23. 23. % of patrons librarians believe are aware of reference resources @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  24. 24. Librarian satisfaction with perceived patron awareness @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  25. 25. Top ways librarians think patrons discover reference resources  Following the direction of a librarian  Following the direction of an instructor  Searching online (eg. Google) @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  26. 26. Are librarians satisfied with the use reference resources get? @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  27. 27. Issues with discovery  The Discovery service doesn't make it possible to filter for this content. Our catalog does a great job, but the students don't start there. Our major reference vendor's content isn't in the Discovery service (yet). Reference Universe, the index to reference content, does not work well enough in the Discovery Layer or even on its own to get students to that content. A problem that needs to be fixed. @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  28. 28. It’s not just discovery  It can always be better  Free alternative resources  Patrons are not on board  Not enough value for the money  Not enough promotion  The value is in the answer  C’est la vie @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  29. 29. What does it all mean?  User behavior has changed  Information sources have changed  Reference is no longer a place Therefore definitions for reference have changed and buying of “reference” has changed @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  30. 30. It’s bigger than reference “I always want people to know what we have and to use it more. It is an uphill battle to get them to use the library instead of Google (or other search engine) as their starting place.” Library Director, US @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk
  31. 31. Questions? Comments? Elisabeth Leonard, MSLS, MBA Twitter: @ElisabethAnn Email: elisabeth.leonard@sagepub.com @ElisabethAnn and/or #RefTalk

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