Reference and Information

By: Naomi Emory LSSL 5334.01 June 19, 2015

The Internet!

Sometimes the internet can be a very intimidating resource for librarians. There are many strengths and weaknesses of using this resource. Strengths include

  • Ease- Searches that normally would have taken a large amount of time
  • Currency- Information on the internet is quicker and easier to update than resources in print, keeping the information more current and up to date.
  • Audiovisual Capabilities- Searchers can better understand the information provided when they have the ability to reference a video or audio clip.
  • Exclusivity- Some resources are only available online.
  • Interactivity- Chat, IM, text reference services are now available at many libraries across the country.
  • Mass Convenience-  Multiple people can access the same resource at the same time, unlike print resources.

Weaknesses include  

  • Lack of Quality Control- Anyone can add anything they want with no regulations.
  • The Evaluation of Resources Falls to the User
  • The Lack of Overview- Unsure of the appropriate keywords, searchers may not be able to find what they are looking for, unlike in a library where they can go to a section and browse.
  • The Overwhelming Results- Time can be wasted checking if the source is reliable, looking for the right source, and moving from site to site.
  • No Guarantee of Full Text Articles- While the amount of free articles is increasing, searchers cannot know until they've arrived at a source if the full article is free or requires a subscription.
  • Spotty Coverage of Historical Material
  • Volatility- You never know when information is being changed, added, or deleted.

How can you be successful when completing internet reference? Just follow these handy steps below.

  1. Is the internet the right thing to use?                                                                                (Is it the best and only resource? Make sure you understand the strengths and weaknesses)
  2. Make sure you choose the right internet tool.                                                        (Search engines, metasearch engines, subject directories)
  3. Take care to construct the right search terms.                                                         (Make a list, check for alternate spellings, look at the context)
  4. Use the right search operators.
  5. Then evaluate your results.                                                                                  (Authority, reliability, currency)

All About Readers' Advisory services

The history of Readers' Advisory services goes back to 1876.

  • 1876-1920 Was the invention of the Readers' Advisory Services
  • 1920-1940 Privileging Nonfiction of the Readers' Advisory Services
  • 1940-1984 The Readers' Advisory Services were "Lost" in Adult Services
  • 1984-Present Is the reviving of the Readers' Advisory Services

The Readers' Advisory Services have a very important place in the library. Many libraries today have a special department for the Readers' Advisory Services, however some libraries have the reference desk complete this responsibility. Having the reference desk complete this task can be very beneficial, especially in our current atmosphere of budget cuts. In order to help patrons feel more comfortable with asking Readers' Advisory questions, make the reference desk more inviting and approachable. Having said that, there are some distinct differences between reference services and Readers' Advisory Services. These differences include:

  • A reference interview has a clear focus, answering questions, where Readers' Advisory Service does not.
  • Readers' Advisory Services lean more towards reading for pleasure.
  • Reference interviews are NOT more important than Readers' Advisory Services.

During the Readers' Advisory interview the librarian should remember their skills and tools from the reference interviews. A librarian should begin by finding out what the reader has read before, things they like, and didn't like. Why did they like those books, why didn't they? Remember to ask open ended questions and do not show distaste toward the reader's answers or interests through body language. You can help those shy to ask questions through Indirect Readers' Advisory tools such as book displays, "Read-Alike" lists, and more. As with many things there are some common mistakes with the Readers' Advisory Services. These common mistakes include poor body language, little or no conversation, and poor communication skills, to name a few.

Reference Services for Children and Young Adults

The reference services for children and young adults has greatly changed over time, below is a timeline of reference services with children and young adults.

In both public and school libraries there are many different types of reference transactions. These types of reference transactions and services include:

  • Ready reference questions, homework assistance, research questions for school work, Readers' Advisory questions and more. While at times these questions can become boing librarians need to understand and realize that these questions can help the librarian teach the student how the library is organized.
  • Homework centers are created and based on the needs of the population. Some of them have special programs such as tutoring, instructional aides, special collections, and more.
  • In regards to developmentally appropriate reference services librarians must attend professional development classes as much as possible in order to keep up to date with the current advances in youth reference services. Librarians need to select age appropriate resources, organize their collection in an easy to understand fashion, and offer choice in order to meet the students' individual needs.
  • To best provide services for your students with special needs librarians need to make use of assistive technology, review the layout for handicapped accessibility, review visual aides, investigate text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology, evaluate the collection for appropriate materials.

Since the advent of the internet digital reference services have become more popular. In order for students to be more successful librarians need to teach the differences between the online search tools as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Online safety is something that is very important, but can be easily over looked. Librarians need to teach and be aware of the positive and negative uses of social networking sites, as well as online predators. With the government resources the librarian needs to teach students how to use and access these resources before they begin using them.

As with all of the library's resources and services, librarians and staff need to evaluate the reference services to youth. Before a librarian begins their evaluation they need to know and understand the purpose for evaluation as well as the assessment tool. If a survey is to be used first consider the audience, look at the audience's reading level, and is the survey developmentally appropriate? Keep the survey to 10 questions or less, use large font, use lots of color, and group like questions.

Information Literacy and Reference Services

"Information literacy is the set of abilities enabling individuals to regognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." (American Library Association, 1989).  Librarians, instead of focusing only on content, need to focus as well on patron outcomes and connection to knowledge. The standards for information literacy are discussed in the Standards for the 21st Century Learner as well as the Information Literacy Competency Standards. When approaching information literacy you should think about WHO you are teaching, and less about the search method and database. Plagiarism is a very serious factor with the internet becoming more and more popular in today's society. Who is responsible for the enforcement of these policies? At times it can be very confusing. However, the library can provide workshops in the library and online to discuss this information as well as the cutting and pasting fascination students have. Librarians can also provide one-on-one instruction regarding these topics.

  • Make this a part of your normal reference routine during reference interviews.
  • Have mini lessons prepared, ready if patrons show an interest.
  • Utilize the library's website, create web tutorials that patrons can access at home and on their own time.

There are many ways to include information literacy in the classroom. These ways include:

  • Taking advantage of the teachable moments during a project.
  • Use a variety of assignments that discuss these topics and skills.
  • With collaboration the librarians can teach the staff so the staff can more successfully teach the students.
  • Strive for full integration into the curriculum.
  • Teach students to critically evaluate sources.
  • Create online tutorials for students to access and work through.

Librarians need to assess and evaluate information literacy to ensure the success of the students and the library. There are multiple assessment tools that can be sued to look at evaluation of information literacy. The tools that would be better for students include:

  • Quizzes
  • Essays
  • Portfolios
  • Peer/Self Review
  • Observations.


Cassell, Kay Ann., and Uma Hiremath. Reference And Information Services: an Introduction. Print.

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