[Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Terry Mackey terrym at clackamas.edu
Wed Oct 3 12:07:32 PDT 2012


I would agree that reference has changed. Here are some interesting statistics from our students' use of EBSCO Academic Search Premier.

In the month of February of 2005 our students conducted 11,151 searches and retrieved 4,839 fulltext documents.

In the month of February of 2011 our students conducted 60,032 searches and retrieved 4,442 fulltext documents.

During this same six years the total number of questions answered at the reference desk has gone down. We keep daily statistics at Clackamas. Questions about how to print and use the Microsoft Office suite dominate our time. I believe this is consistent with the findings of the 2010 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information.

So, I believe Clackamas students still need help, (lots of help) but traditional reference assistance probably isn't reaching the Freshman and Sophomore students when they need it.

Just mt 2 cents. Thanks for reading.

Terry Mackey
Library Department Chair
Clackamas Community College

From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us [libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Kathy Stroud [kstroud at uoregon.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 11:15 AM
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?


Reference is definitely not dead. Its nature is changing, and libraries are re-examining how they define and implement it as a service. Because reference desks seem to be going out of style, “reference” seems to have become a word with negative associations. Librarians still do a lot of reference, it’s just the locations of the service have become more varied (service desk, walk-about, on-call, office hours, virtual, etc.)

The content of reference questions is also changing. I find that while we get a lot of directional and how to use the equipment questions, the true reference questions that we do see are the really complicated ones. People are asking questions that they could not find the answer to on the Internet. In this sense, the “ready reference” fact finding sources that  I learned about in Library School are no longer needed.

However, the core skills of active listening, reference interview, reference transactions, are things that I put into use every day at the library and are important concepts for every public service person to have at least some grounding in. I learned the theory in reference class and developed my skills by working a reference desk with some excellent librarians and observing their interactions with patrons.

I agree with Emily that the coursework may be what needs to be updated to reflect the changing world of reference. Instead of reflecting traditional paper resources, course work could emphasize using online tools and common licensed resources that are not easily discovered by the general user, when to switch to paper resources (although the paper resources with no online equivalent are getting rarer), and conducting a reference interview in the online environment. A discussion of different reference models and the pluses and minuses in different settings would also be useful. Of course, many classes may already be doing this.  Admittedly my degree is almost 10 years old and therefore my experience with graduate school is outdated, if not ancient.

I think this is a great topic for ongoing discussions.  Perhaps we could have panel discussions at meetings concerning “what does reference look like today?”  and “what are the basic skills you need to do reference in the digital age?”

Just a few thoughts.

Kathy Stroud

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?
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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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