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Linda Crook (non-member)'s picture

Discussion notes: the Future of Reference

Unconference, ALA Annual Conference
Friday, July 10, 2009
Discussion period #1, 11:10-12:00
"The Future of Reference"
Led by Linda Crook
Michael Furlong, Rochelle Hartman, Holly Ledvina, Julie Piacentine

Discussion Notes

  • Desk as barrier to service
  • Moveable service points
  • Librarians as consultants
  • Roaming reference + regular desk
  • Ref librarians at circ desk, librarians in stack with tablet pc and headset
  • Ref librarians getting stopped with questions outside of ref area
  • Use of two monitors at the desk, or a two-sided monitor
  • Increase in technical questions
  • We need to totally trash staffing models
  • Library staff a la Walmart greeters
  • People are unwilling to jump
  • Rigid classification
  • Meebo marketing
  • Virtual reference - new challenge for libraries; it will change, but won't go away. Needed.
  • Libguides, e.g.
  • Fewer than 5-10% of patrons use the web
  • Explaining call numbers to students
  • "You need to know that libraries are really hard to use."
  • Incoming students without library skills
  • Will databases play a role in the future of reference?
  • Future of reference is library instruction. We're not reaching everyone we need to
  • 15 minute teaser classes for full-length follow-up LI sessions
Dave Hargett's picture

Interesting bullet points, but the notes would be more helpful to those who were NOT in attendance if there was even a sentence or two that related to it.  For example, "library staff a la Walmart greeters". Is that a discussion indicating that this was a good idea or a bad idea or were two sides presented?

People are unwilling to jump - does this relate to patrons, or to reference librarians who have issues with change?

I'm a trustee but my brother is a reference librarian so that's why I'm a little curious about this discussion.

Dave Hargett ALTAFF Representative 2008-2010 Trustee, Fountaindale Public Library - Bolingbrook, IL

Linda Crook (non-member)'s picture

You're absolutely right - my write-up definitely suffered for having been done three weeks after the conference.  Hopefully the discussants can offer more details!

Linda Crook

Holly Ledvina's picture

As I recall in our discussion, the unwillingness to jump refers to difficulties librarians may experience in trying to "jump into" offering new technologies, new modes of service delivery, or other exiting cutting edge ideas that we are not able to implement due to various constraints. Some of the constraints mentioned were staffing, administrative, or financial considerations.

My memory of the Walmart greeter was an idea mentioned by a public library, reference services librarian whose library was considering adding this as either a paid or volunteer position. The library wishes to create a more friendly atmosphere, welcoming users to the library.



Dave Hargett's picture

I have toured a couple of libraries (as we were planning our new library design) that featured an area in the main lobby for an info desk or welcome desk. In one case in Cleveland Heights, OH, the desk was staffed by staff members, who rotated on a schedule, serving for an hour at a time during one of their work days, with everyone on the staff, including the director and the IT team, taking their turns. While I was discussing this with the IT person working the desk at that moment, he handed out a job application, told a patron he could take his coffee into the library, referred someone to a service desk, and answered a couple of directional questions as well.

I've also seen volunteers used in this instance, where they spend 2 or 3 hours at the desk.

I'm a trustee and I actually think it would be a good idea for the staff to do this, like Cleveland Hts does, INCLUDING the trustees, who would then get a taste of what really happens in the library!

We haven't decided yet for sure, but we have allowed space for a welcome desk in the new design and we just broke ground on the new building so we have about 16 months before we're in the new building to develop the plan for manning it.


Dave Hargett ALTAFF Representative 2008-2010 Trustee, Fountaindale Public Library - Bolingbrook, IL