Competency I

use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users;

Service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance and accuracy for users are exemplified in the reference librarian. This competency breaks down the topic of information service into smaller tasks that identify the work with reference services. The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the ALA, defines reference transactions and reference work as follows. “Reference Work (bolding theirs) includes reference transactions and other activities that involve the creation, management, and assessment of information or research resources, tools, and services.” (RUSA, 2008, ¶ 2) Reference transactions are the consultations where library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate and use information resources. (RUSA, 2008, ¶ 1) This definition divides the work into two separate kinds of tasks, the patron interaction and the information interaction.

Patron interaction includes all activities dealing directly with him or her, such as the reference interview, instruction on using the information resource, and providing the wanted information. Information interaction is the creation, management and assessment of the tools used to provide the service to the patron. In Competency I, the two interactions are defined with less of a division. I see this competency as the whole organism of reference service, including the reference interview, defining the patron’s needs, finding the correct information resource, instructing the patron when necessary, and concluding the transaction with the patron. This activity is informed by the librarian’s skills at researching and the knowledge of the collection at their disposal. The collection would be the actual physical objects in the library as well as the online database access. If the librarian is not familiar with both the physical and online information resource packages, then the service to the patron is flawed and could potentially result in giving the wrong answer to the patron’s question.

In my evidence, I posted a small comment from my reference class on how technology will continue to change the way reference is performed. In that text file, there is a comment about the interesting part of reference being not the technology or the searching or production of information but rather, how do the librarians understand and communicate effectively with the patron. This thought leads me into the reference interview and finding out what the patron needs. In The Portable MLIS, David A. Tyckoson discusses the reference interview and how to get the patron to go from the general question to the more specific. (Tyckoson, 2008, p. 38) For example, many users will come to the desk with a general question about taxes but they really want to know about a specific rule. If the librarian knew the wanted information was extremely specific then it would make the resulting answer more accurate and to the point. Additionally, if the librarian cannot communicate effectively with the patron, then the question would not be answered and the patron would not have a positive library experience.

Once the question is thoroughly understood by the librarian, she can perform the steps necessary to find an answer. In both my artifact and other books about reference services, authors talk about the questions no longer being ready reference or simple factual questions. Those types of questions are more easily answered by the patron on the internet. The kinds of questions are increasingly longer research types. This leads the reference librarian into the realm of instruction more and more. My second artifact looks at the collection policies for two libraries I used heavily for my class. The professor wanted to know if there was a reference collection page of web site links and if there were policies posted for the reference collection. In retrospect, I completely missed answering the first question about the web site links but yes, there is a page for both the libraries. This is one way for the reference librarian to make the reference collection more accessible and usable. The policies on the scope of the collection allow the patron to know what the rules are around the collections. This is useful for the patron to know ahead of time.

For the principles and techniques of information access for the user or groups of users, I am including two reference quizzes. I chose these two because the focus for each was on using different kinds of reference material. Using biographical, dictionaries and encyclopedias was the heart of one set of questions and geographical and government information was the other. I feel they are good representation of a variety of sources accessed frequently by the librarian. There were a total of four assignments, and the remaining assignments covered indexes, dictionaries, almanacs, yearbooks and handbooks. As a casual library and avid internet user, I had no idea the volume of information available in the reference section. It was eye opening, challenging and interesting.

Overall the reference librarian can be viewed with two halves to the job: patron interaction and information resource finding. In both areas of expertise, the librarian uses a variety of skills. When working with the patron in the reference interview, she is focusing on her service skills mixed with domain knowledge of the collection as well as the topic. The searching and location of information resources that will answer the question are her searching techniques with the domain understanding. Relevance and accuracy should be addressed in the reference interview in order to ensure the question being answered is the one the patron needs and not a general overview question.

References

Definitions of Reference. (January 14, 2008). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/rusa/resources/guidelines/definitionsreference.cfm

Haycock, K. & Sheldon, B. E. (Eds.). (2008). The portable MLIS. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Artifacts

Reference Collection Rules

Comments on the Impacts of Technology on Reference

Reference Questions III

Reference Questions IV