[Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Emily Ford fordemily at gmail.com
Wed Oct 3 10:28:47 PDT 2012

I'm so glad that you posted to Libs-Or about this. I wanted to but was

I took a stand alone reference course in library school. Some of it seemed
like busy work. But I go back to the I gained knowledge each time I get a
tough reference question.

But what was the greatest learning experience I had with reference as a
student was spending 6 months serving as a reference intern and then as an
employee in the trenches of adult services at Monroe County Public Library
in Bloomington, IN. Had I not had a course that covered the reference
interview, reference transactions, etc, my first few months at the public
library would have been awful. The course I took prepared with the theory,
armed me with resources and techniques. Translating them into practice was
fulfilling. How many students these days do reference internships? If they
don't, how can a small portion of a class prepare them for a future job
without course and/or reference "in the trenches" experiences?

My take: we do need reference librarians and reference is not dead. It
looks completely different, but it still happens. Sure, lots of L-Net
questions I answer are about library accounts, fines, etc and lots of
questions I answer at the PSU Library desk deal with printing in our
computer lab. But would I have been able to answer students questions about
finding tests and measures or survey instruments without being a trained
(in the classroom and in the trenches) reference librarian? Probably not.

Maybe the problem is not that reference is dead, but that the traditional
reference course curriculum is. How could a full on reference course
capture the breadth of "traditional" reference practices and also what's
happening with new technologies, new questions, and new literacies? There
must be a way.


On Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 10:01 AM,
<libs-or-request at listsmart.osl.state.or.us>wrote:

> Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2012 13:30:10 -0700
> From: Caleb Tucker-Raymond <calebt at multcolib.org>
> To: "libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us"
>         <Libs-Or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us>
> Subject: [Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?
> Message-ID:
>         <CAPO-dkfzY2W0vaQahXifEw=
> k4LiWFT+Xh6ojW8Kx_i_048cX3A at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> Hi, everybody,
> As seen on the Hack Library School blog,
> http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/whither-reference/, some
> library schools are no longer offering a standalone course in reference,
> but instead making reference a smaller component of a larger course. The
> rationale is that "reference is dead".
> My first reaction was, "oh no! not again!"
> But I'm interested to start a discussion here because what isn't mentioned
> in this post is that the author is discussing Emporia State University,
> which, through the Oregon cohorts of the School of Library and Information
> Management, is our local library school.
> I attended Emporia's most recent local graduation this past August, and I
> got to hear some great speakers contemplate the future of libraries. In
> addition, I recall that both our state librarian, MaryKay Dahlgreen, and
> the then-president of the Oregon Library Association, Abigail Elder, also
> talked about how grateful we all are here in Oregon to have a library
> school bringing new professionals into our community. I'm grateful also.
> Do we expect new professionals to begin their careers with knowledge of
> reference services and sources?
> To fuel my own curiosity, I looked at the past three months of OLA Jobline
> announcements shared with this list. Of 55 descriptions for positions in
> Oregon, 11 mentioned reference service specifically - 20%. I didn't get
> into which of those required an MLS, but from looking at the titles, only
> one is for "reference librarian":
> Archivist for Collections Management, Eugene, OR
> Information Resources and Instructional Librarian, Coos Bay, OR
> Library Assistant/Branch Lead Worker, Beaverton, OR
> Manager, Architecture and Allied Arts Library, Eugene, OR
> Part-Time Librarian, Happy Valley, OR
> Reference Assistant, Albany, OR
> Reference Assistant, Tigard, OR
> Reference Librarian, Grand Ronde, OR
> Research/Catalog Librarian, Portland, OR
> Special Collections Assoc., Portland, OR
> Youth Services Associate, Prineville, OR
> I'm interested in hearing your perspective!
> Caleb Tucker-Raymond
> Statewide Reference Service Coordinator
> Multnomah County Library
> (503) 988-5438
> calebt at multco.us
> www.oregonlibraries.net
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