[Libs-Or] Drawing the line between reference and advice

Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney kbrodbeck-kenney at lincolncity.org
Tue Nov 24 15:11:47 PST 2015

Thea, this is super helpful! I don't know why it didn't occur to me that
others would cover this in their Reference Services policies. I think
your idea to develop a policy and then have staff practice making
judgment calls is a great idea.

Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney, MLIS
Library Director
Driftwood Public Library
801 SW Hwy 101, #201
Lincoln City, OR 97367
541-996-1251 (desk)
541-996-1262 (fax)

 >>> EVENSTAD Thea <tevenstad at springfield-or.gov> 11/24/2015 1:15 PM
Hi Kristen,
What an interesting question! I’m not sure if you’ve found some helpful
information yet. 
I found that Rutgers Reference and Information Service page
 includes “Service Definitions” that describe what reference service is
at their institution and their “Service Limitations” have some good ways
of differentiating between reference service and not-reference service,
·		 “Legal, Medical, or Pharmaceutical Advice - The
Libraries cannot provide legal, medical, or pharmaceutical advice in
response to reference queries. Specific information may be read from
manuals, but in most circumstances users will be referred to sources of
information from which to draw conclusions.
·		 Commercial Products and/or Services - The Libraries
will not provide recommendations on commercial products and/or services
in response to queries but will refer users to sources of information on
these topics.”
Similarly, Aurora Public Library provides a Reference Services Policy
 that states:
·		 Staff will offer their best professional opinion when
providing reader’s advisory service or recommending the best source to
answer a question. Staff will not give opinions, advice, or
interpretation of information beyond the scope of their expertise and
training in library reference work.
I also think the Answerland guidelines for Crisis Calls
( https://www.answerland.org/help/crisis-calls)  may be helpful,
specifically these two points:
·		 “If the question is personal, refer the patron to an
appropriate hotline. As librarians, we don’t have the necessary training
to assist a patron in crisis, but we can find resources that will help.
Links for hotline resources are listed below.
·		 Strike a balance between professional behavior and
supportive behavior. If the patron is in trouble, we want to be
friendly, supportive, and approachable, as with all of our patrons.
However, remain professional and give resources rather than advice.”
Maybe you could develop your own Reference Service Policy for your
library, then develop a training where your staff are given scenarios
and have to decide whether or not what the patron is asking falls within
the scope of your reference service, as identified by the policy.
Hope this helps!
Thea Evenstad
Librarian and Arts Commission Liaison
Springfield Public Library
225 5th St
Springfield, OR 97477
tevenstad at springfield-or.gov
From: Libs-Or [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On
Behalf Of Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2015 3:04 PM
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: [Libs-Or] Drawing the line between reference and advice
I'm wondering if anyone has any good resources for staff training, or
even good rules of thumb, for drawing a line between reference and
advice. For example, I've recently had some staff members get drawn into
proofreading papers, giving advice on resume wording, offering to read
and critique cover letters, and items of that nature. I feel that
one-on-one resume advice or proofreading/critiquing a paper crosses a
line, much like giving medical advice or tax advice, but I'm finding it
a bit hard to articulate to staff, other than to remind them that our
job is to offer resources so that people can learn to do things
themselves. Thoughts? Advice?
Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney, MLIS
Library Director
Driftwood Public Library
801 SW Hwy 101, #201
Lincoln City, OR 97367
541-996-1251 (desk)
541-996-1262 (fax)
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