LAUC Reference

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UC San Diego Trends:

• Reference requests are dropping. We are having less contact with our users (chat reference excluded), but their reference needs are still there.

• Record numbers of students are coming into the library (7)


UCMerced -For example, at UC Merced, librarians knew from the outset that they could not afford to staff a reference desk. Abandoning the traditional model, UC Merced relies on well trained student assistants and paraprofessionals at the services desk, chat reference, and research consultation appointments with librarians to provide quality reference. -We have collected data from our campus that supports user satisfaction with chat reference. This assessment, as well as system wide data suggesting that 24/7 chat is becoming one of UC's busiest reference points gives us confidence that we are on the right track, and serving our community well. We acknowledge that there will be some not served without a reference desk. The new model is not perfect, but it is good enough and it is mandated by fiscal realities.


UCD 1. Reference

a. Need to identify the population we are serving recognizing that there are different needs for each e.g. instruction for on-campus undergrads vs. information for community members throughout the state of California; patrons throughout the world

b. Need to define the reference service; for example does it include outreach functions as well as service to individual users.

c. Currently an evaluation/assessment program for reference has been sketched out that includes surveys at the reference desk and a plan for focus groups. After some delays this program is scheduled to resume in May 2010. Some issues for the evaluation effort include:

  • identifying user needs and behaviors and their variations between campuses
  • differentiating between the wants that users express and the needs that we can identify as professionals
  • making full use of the data collected on user behavior; details tend to be compressed or eliminated in the way that the data is compiled
  • a more sophisticated analysis of the data is necessary

d. The defining development of the last couple years in reference has been a reduction of service points in which the government documents, information, and bioag desks have been closed and their staff consolidated at the former hss desk which now serves as the reference desk of the Shields Library. Some discussion remains on the extent to which this has been done at the other branch libraries. Issues regarding consolidation are:

  • driven by budget reduction to compensate for attrition now and in the near future
  • reduction in demand for reference depending on which numbers are used
  • lack of availability of librarians to users
  • inefficiency in terms of increased off-desk reference
  • dilution of subject expertise
  • lack of responsiveness to subject users

e. Alternatives

  • chat reference - working with remote campuses not efficient; staffing issues pose a barrier to more service

f. Optimal future:

  • relating reference service to the overall mission of the library and university
  • more elaborate training for reference personnel
  • exploration of technologies for remote reference such as chat reference and online tutorials and guides
  • an expectation of a new hybridization of reference with instruction, access services, and other units
  • restoration of subject-specific service points
  • library chat for each reference desk: needs to be localized to campus rather than current 24/7 which brings in questions throughout the system; chat should incorporate text messaging


-What constitutes reference services when all users ask Google and are satisfied with the results? Why would anyone go to the library for reference help? How can we become more involved in developing more sophisticated, semantic-based online access to scholarly information?

-Reference - As statistics for reference desks drop and e-reference grows, at what point should we stop drop-in reference desk assistance and depend on electronic means? -reference interview depends on interpersonal and social context of each project

-reference as an educational process for users

-imbue machines with conversational and dialogic skills from human practice -temptation to treat reference as a mechanical transaction

-encourage patron to think out loud, state and restate

-ubiquitous non-invasive reference instruction.

UCB -Various types of online reference are popular, reference by appointment is popular.

-Ask a Librarian: 24/7 chat reference service via OCLC Questionpoint software o UCB librarians currently staff 8 hours/week o UCB students have access 24/7 o Questions run the gamut from directional to substantive o Many questions can be answered using online resources (not all; and referral to subject specialists do take place) o Discussion of differences – lack visual cues, but librarians feel they can/must ask user more questions; more followup than for in-person reference; challenge of answering questions from non-UC patrons; takes longer; does it reduce ageism and reverse-ageism? o Will it lead to offshoring of reference? (or not: local information still very important)

-Email reference o Doe/Moffitt has a general e-mail reference service o Many units and many individual librarians answer reference via e-mail

-IM chat reference o Done at some libraries on campus (including Gov Info, Sciences, Transportation, et al) o Necessary at units like Transportation Studies with very dispersed clientele

-Texting o Engineering does texting, meebo chat and Lisa participates in Questionpoint o Questionpoint will start implementing texting

-Reference by appointment (in-person) o Many libraries do this o Doe/Moffitt: Research Advisory Service (by appointment for undergraduates) recently started online signups; use of the service has increased with relatively few no-shows; Law also has online signups for appointments

-Statistics down for most units; many units have cut staffing (1 person not 2) and/or hours

-Is the reference desk less about reference and more about marketing – our availability?

-Location of reference desk vis-à-vis users and vis-à-vis circulation desk makes a difference

-some units, students have first contact and refer when necessary; in the new Moffitt building, a similar tiered reference service is being considered, with trained students as first contact point

-combined desks also being considered at some units

-@ UC Merced, all reference is on call (student employees refer); NYU moving to something similar

-in surveys, library users say they like being able to talk face to face to someone

-Question: Anyone using Skype for reference? No one knew of any instances at UCB. /UCB

-with proliferation of information sources, more attention can be paid to information literacy, on teaching patrons how to analyze and evaluate the content of search results, and to deciphering their relation within the topic of inquiry. -still need general and specialized knowledge -new tools hide important information such as scope and comprehensiveness of contents -reference librarian must provide context and relief for flat representation of results -reference librarian can serve as “cross disciplinary translator”

-undergraduate benefits especially from contextualization

-reference librarian must partner with teaching faculty, be familiar with professors, assignments, relation of class to discipline

-budget crisis prevents development of subject expertise and liaison work -UCD subject specialist in charge of 10 areas

-reference work incorporates physical desk, static and interactive online tools, virtual meetings, class instruction, other forums -Both history and current events show space and materiality are still important for reference service. -physical desk implies accountability, works as invitation

-UCD patrons approach desk for orientation, resource discovery, conversations about distribution and context of information. -UCD reference desk often busy - Every quarter, I meet new faculty and researchers, help new students with old problems and new assignments, and meet continuing students who have progressed from the academic novice to the intellectually engaged scholar. It is a mutually rewarding and challenging space from which to serve the campus and community.

-In this complex information environment, the Reference Desk is used increasingly to ameliorate the confusion encountered online. -Undoubtedly, this commitment to our users at the physical desk contains costs, and its value is, like most knowledge, difficult to account, but beside counting the papers saved, insights sparked, or careers changed because of the fruitful interplay between librarians and researchers, the Reference Desk must also be recognized as a place to communicate our ethical responsibility to our users.

-The rapport created there not only translates into future good will towards the library and university, but better research skills for the patron.

-face-to-face interaction benefits patron and library. In the anthropological terms, it is a rich site for the transfer of cultures and skills.

-librarian at physical desk offers a unique place to listen in increasingly large and complex universities. -safe place away from professors

-It is a prime and unfiltered information gathering point for the library in its efforts to remain relevant to the University. Each conversation there informs collection development decisions, instructional needs, and outreach methods. The librarian on the Reference Desk records the core concerns and trends of our faculty and students. -Reference and Instruction Which aspects of reference and instruction do you see as ongoing functions of librarians? Which aspects do you see fading away? Which aspects do you see evolving, and how? What are some practical approaches librarians should consider in relation to reference and instruction?

-Possible article of interest for this discussion: Beck, Clare. 1991. "Reference Services: a Handmaid's Tale." Library Journal 116 (7):32-38.

-Contrast the Beck article with the item cited in the UCSF blog posting (2/10/10) on the LAUC blog: Kaufman, Paula. 2009. "Carpe Diem: Transforming Services in Academic Libraries"

-lack of knowledge about student behavior and interests

-Physical reference desk statistics have been dropping. However, these was no consensus on the future of the physical reference desk.

-Many thought personal contact was very important.

-Some libraries, such as the San Diego and the UCLA Biomed Libraries, have altered staffing. San Diego implemented on-call scheduling; UCLA merged the desk with circulation.

-Other libraries have instituted “roving” students who, wearing “uniforms,” circulate through out the library and contact others needing assistance. That led to a brief discussion as to whether an MLS was necessary to staff the reference desk. Again, there is no consensus.

-diversity of strategies for reference among campuses that could be a strength

-widespread chat reference Text & Chat throughout UCs

- There was consensus that the current capabilities of QuestionPoint for chat reference could be improved. It should be more reliable and upgraded to include other options. We also agreed that it has served as a “gateway” to other avenues of contact with the student.

-location of physical reference desk important with many issues

-use of chat reference to improve websites

-UC Libraries have been exploring Facebook and Twitter. Riverside has a presence on both. Three libraries at San Diego are on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 UC Merced: Discussion of the Future When LAUC Merced met in April 2010, we had a great discussion on the future of libraries. As builders and managers of the first research library since the dawn of the information age, we believe UC Merced librarians bring an interesting perspective to any discussion on this topic. We are a library of the future. In fact, our library motto is, Not what other research libraries are, what they will be. What makes us a library of the future?

When the founding librarians at UC Merced drew up plans for the library, they seized the opportunity to design a building and an organization that could take full advantage of modern technologies and systems. From the outset, they knew that they could not afford to build a new library based on old traditions. Were they nostaligic about the reference desk that would never be? Were they wistful, knowing that the print monograph collection would never equal that of UC Berkeley or UCLA? No matter the answers to those questions - they didn't have a choice because the budget wouldn't allow for these luxuries.

To illustrate -- Imagine that you are shopping for a house. You are drawn to a charming bungalow that reminds you of the one you grew up in. It has a mature landscape and a mailman who delivers letters to a slot by the front door. Yes, the place has character. You feel at home there. It's comfortable. But can you afford to live in a house with ancient wiring, roots in the plumbing and vintage insulation?

Your other option is to build the home of your dreams. You have complete freedom of design, but a limited budget. You face many difficult decisions. What is essential? What can you live without? How does your modern lifestyle influence your design decisions? Will your design scale when your household grows? And can you live with the fact that the trees won't provide shade for a few years and that the mail will be delivered to a community box halfway up the street?

While building a library of the future from scratch may be easier than remodeling an existing one, in each case, it requires an acceptance of giving up some things to get other things. For example, at UC Merced, librarians knew from the outset that they could not afford to staff a reference desk. Abandoning the traditional model, UC Merced relies on well trained student assistants and paraprofessionals at the services desk, chat reference, and research consultation appointments with librarians to provide quality reference. We have collected data from our campus that supports user satisfaction with chat reference. This assessment, as well as system wide data suggesting that 24/7 chat is becoming one of UC's busiest reference points gives us confidence that we are on the right track, and serving our community well. We acknowledge that there will be some not served without a reference desk. The new model is not perfect, but it is good enough and it is mandated by fiscal realities.

Our library is futuristic in that more than 85% of our books are electronic. There has been a steady march to the use and acceptance of ebooks in academic libraries despite the imperfections of the platform. Why? The advantages of electronic access are obvious, but there is also the reality that libraries are running out of room. The SOPAG Task Force on UC Libraries Collections Space Planning Report makes it clear that we must reduce the system wide growth rate of print collections. Ebooks are part of the solution to this critical space issue. We recognize that not everyone will be well-served by ebooks. But given the environment, we opt for ebooks because this platform will provide information to most of our users most of the time. Ebooks will continue to evolve and improve only if we are willing to use them and create a market that will encourage publishers to adopt Springer-like usability features. Ebooks are not perfect, but they are good enough and getting better.

Our library is only five years old and our shelves half empty, but we share system wide concerns about space. We enthusiastically support initiatives to eliminate duplication in the UC collection and to develop models that will allow shared print acquisitions and the management of shared collections. UC Merced fully embraces and operates on the concept of one University of California Library Collection. Yes, we rely on our sister campuses to fill in the gaps of our young library, but we also make a significant contribution to the shared UC collection. In fact, for every ten books we borrow from other campuses, we loan seven. Surprised? In what can only be characterized as collection development of the future, Jim Dooley, aka the collection department, uses YPB and faculty requests to develop a highly relevant print collection that actually circulates. Much of Jim's success can be attributed to early faculty buy-in of the collection model and the library/faculty relationships cultivated in the ensuing years since the opening of the campus. Our collection model required that we give up the tradition of highly specialized collecting by subject bibliographers. We recognize that it is not perfect, but it is good enough and we believe that it will work on other campuses in the UC system.

The collection development model at UC Merced is a great example of our organizational philosophy which suggests that librarians should be managers who spend their time working on projects and innovations that have a big payoff. Librarians of the future don't have time to do repetitive tasks, i.e. most collection development which can be outsourced, and most reference desk questions which can be handled by other staff. The skill set of librarians must evolve with the current demands of the library environment. That means that librarians must be continually willing to master new technologies, develop new work flows and learn skills related to project management. The organizational culture at UC Merced supports this philosophy by investing in the professional development of librarians who are expected to manage and lead.

When we speak about the innovative practices of our library it's not unusual for our UC colleagues to listen politely and then dismiss what we're doing, suggesting that it would never work in a bigger library. With all due respect, we disagree. While we expect to add more librarians and staff as our campus grows, we do not expect significant changes to our model. We understand that it was much easier for us to build a library of the future from scratch than it would be to retrofit an existing library structure or organization. But perhaps our model can be useful to other campuses as they move forward and make difficult decisions about what they are willing to give up to become libraries of the future. We welcome your questions and comments.