Reference and Information Services: A Brief Overview of a Reference Librarian

Reference librarians provide library users with direction to materials, advice on library collections and services, and expertise in sorting through information from multiple sources.  Below you will find details pertaining to numerous areas that reference librarians need to be aware of and stay abreast of as the librarian world changes.

The Internet: A Reference Tool

We all have an "insatiable appetite for connectivity."  With the surge of the World Wide Web into our everyday lives it is important for a reference librarian to see the internet as being a full fledged tool to aid in obtaining information. The following chart depicts the strengths and weaknesses of internet usage for reference librarians.

5 Steps to Successful Internet Reference

Readers' Advisory Services

The readers' advisory services are a fundamental aspect of a librarians job.  This involves recommending fiction and non-fiction books to their users. This is a slightly different process than the reference part of being a librarian. Here are a few key factors in providing excellent reader advisory service.

1. Communication with the user is more conversational than interviewing.

2. The discussion is geared more towards pleasurable reading than gaining information.

3. Great to have pre-made booklists to hand out.

4. Librarians need to walk around and be open for users to ask questions.

5. Need to keep up to date with the latest trends and book releases.

6. Indirect approaches are creating visually appealing displays, organizing books for easy access, possibly by themes.

Reference Sources and Services for Children and Young Adults

This area for reference librarians is more about supporting the public schools curriculum and improving the academic achievement of our youth.  In children 5 years and younger the majority of the questions will be from adults wanting to build pre-lit awareness in their children, while children K-12 will be asking ready reference questions, needing help on homework, and beginning research.  For reference librarians to succeed in aiding our youth they need to be knowledgable about current literature, their library collections, and digital tools.  Reference librarians also need to understand the developmental process of children to select age-appropriate resources, organize the library for user ease, and understand the culture and social context of children.  With the digital age being more prevalent reference librarians need to be able to educate our youth on using search engines, data bases, and subject directories to answer inquiries all while keeping the safety of our youth.  Reference librarians also need to conduct evaluations of their sources by giving surveys to users and holding focus groups.  This will allow them to keep their collections current and relevant.  The future success of reference librarians is directly correlated to their creativity, pro activeness, and enthusiasm for engaging our youth.  Reference librarians should follow the following guidelines when communicating with our youth users:

1. Contact the user with a friendly greeting.

2. Introduce yourself and your availability to help.

3. Make eye contact and smile.

4. Keep appropriate proximity; sit, kneel, etc.

5. Eliminate barriers between yourself and the user.

6. Make sure the user has full view of what you are showing them.

7. Allow time for the user to ask questions.

8. Accompany the user to the resources in the library, do not just point them in the direction.

Information Literacy

Reference Materials: Access and Improving

  • This is the most focused, specific, and selective area.  To select materials for your reference section make sure to read reviews and evaluate them based on their scope, quality of content, authority, accuracy, currency, ease of use, arrangement, appropriateness, format, and cost.  Use surveys, standards, and focus groups to assess ongoing.  It is also important to assess to be able to weed when materials become out of date, a new edition is published, it is seldom used, or damaged.  

Reference 2.0

Reference librarians do not just focus on what is tangible and in the library but also what is able to accessed using the internet.  Reference 2.0 is a multi faceted way to get information.  Librarians need to be aware of reference wikis, blogs, podcasts, social networking, widgets, and rss feeds.  The impact the internet has on our users is huge and we must maintain knowledge of the digital tools to keep in touch with our users.

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