[Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Bob Jones Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov
Wed Oct 3 11:08:03 PDT 2012

Thank you, Emily and Caleb.  As an Old Person in the library world, no doubt my views on this subject will differ from those of younger librarians.

I have been a library director for 20 years, and was an acquisitions librarian for five years before that.  But for my first decade in libraries I was an adult services (i.e., reference and reader advisory) librarian.  I still think of myself as a reference librarian.

When I went to library school (which I did twice, at two different schools) the curriculum was the opposite of what it is today: there was ONE (count 'em) course on automation and the other courses rarely if ever mentioned the subject.  But for my MSLS I was required to take a basic reference course and for my CAS I took an advanced reference course (which included a practice reference interview which was taped for evaluation by the professor).

37 years after I took Basic Reference @ Eastern Illinois and 30 years after I took Advanced Reference @ North Texas I still use those skills almost every day.  I have learned a fair amount about computers and library automation along the way; enough to know that Evergreen is worse than CLSI ever was.

If reference is outdated and irrelevant, how will patrons get their reference questions answered by the next generation of librarians now in training?

-Bob in beautiful downtown Milton-Freewater, where we have dozens of computers in the library but I often head to the reference shelves for answers

-----Original Message-----
From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Emily Ford
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 10:29 AM
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: [Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

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

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<mailto: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<mailto:calebt at multcolib.org>>
To: "libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us<mailto:libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us>"
        <Libs-Or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us<mailto:Libs-Or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us>>
Subject: [Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?
        <CAPO-dkfzY2W0vaQahXifEw=k4LiWFT+Xh6ojW8Kx_i_048cX3A at mail.gmail.com<mailto:k4LiWFT%2BXh6ojW8Kx_i_048cX3A at mail.gmail.com>>
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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<tel:%28503%29%20988-5438>
calebt at multco.us<mailto:calebt at multco.us>

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