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NextGen Reference: Single Service Points and Tiered Reference in Academic Libraries Jeff Lacy Lamar University

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Presentation on theme: "NextGen Reference: Single Service Points and Tiered Reference in Academic Libraries Jeff Lacy Lamar University"— Presentation transcript:

1 NextGen Reference: Single Service Points and Tiered Reference in Academic Libraries Jeff Lacy Lamar University

2 Single Service Point: A service point in a library where two or more traditionally separated services (e.g. reference and circulation) have been consolidated in a prominent, highly visible area providing a “one-stop shopping” experience for the student. It is not necessarily the only service point, just a very obvious place for students to ask for assistance or get common services.

3 Tiered Reference is “[...] using paraprofessionals or students to answer easy questions, and referring more challenging questions to librarians” (Brunsting). Tiered reference is easily combined with single service points.

4 How new and how common are these models? Consolidated or single service points have been discussed in library literature for sixteen years, but no data on actual implementation was found (Bradigan). A 2006 survey 404 of medium-sized academic libraries found that only 4.7% (11) used tiered reference (Brunsting).

5 Why consider a single service point? A single service point requires less staffing than multiple service points, which saves money. Students are often confused or intimidated by multiple service points, not under- standing the distinction between the services.

6 Why consider tiered reference? Most research is conducted online, so traditional reference queries have dropped. Reference areas have evolved into computer labs or information commons where the most common questions do not require a reference librarian's expertise to answer.

7 Example Surveys Before moving to a single service point, Duke University's Medical Center Library discovered that 61% of their reference queries could be answered by student assistants (Murphy). At the University of Arizona's Science- Engineering Library discovered, it was 68% (Brache).

8 Why consider tiered reference? A computer lab or information commons is not the best environment for providing in- depth reference assistance, since these efforts are often interrupted by directional and technical queries. In many libraries, academic reference librarians need time to develop their roles in instruction, liaison activity, outreach, grant writing, publication, and other activities.

9 Another point of view The argument for tiered reference is similar to the argument between just in case and just in time collection acquisition. Should reference librarians spend time that could be spent otherwise just in case an in- depth question is asked? Or should reference librarians be on call for just in time reference consultations?

10 “It makes sense to have a place where users can get directions or instructions or technical help. But trained para- professionals and student workers can staff that desk. Professional reference librarians should be out and about meeting users when and where the help is needed.” -- Steven J. Bell (Watstein and Bell) Bringing it together

11 Making the Transition Understand the needs of the students, including their perception of library services. Observe what students do and how the library's arrangement helps/hinders them. Visualize how the students' experiences could be improved. Evaluate and refine by seeking feedback. (Bradigan)

12 Implementation Redesign the physical space Adopt new service models Consider technological improvements Develop improvements to staff communication (Bradigan)

13 Factors to consider Your library's architecture – is there a good place? Staffing – Needs less staff overall, but more staff at one time Training – The most important factor requiring the most planning

14 Training Develop a skill set based on the consolidated services Place holds, circulate, renew, return library materials Accept and record fees and fines Distribute reserve and interlibrary loan materials Direct patrons to locations, departments, and collections within the library Search the library's holdings Navigate the library's web site Operate copiers and other office machines Assist in the computer lab Assist with common assignments, reference sources, etc.

15 Training Develop training modules based on skill sets and learning outcomes Example: At the University of Arizona's Science- Engineering Library, basic SSP training takes six weeks. Complete training (sixteen modules) takes twelve weeks to complete. Reference training involves an additional two months of shadowing a librarian for eight to ten hours a week.

16 Evaluation and Communication Test and assess SSP staff  Annual development reviews  Performance evaluations per semester Develop channels of continuous feedback  From the SSP staff to the reference librarians and back

17 Other training options Peer-to-peer presentations Intense training on newly acquired resources SSP staff should attend vendor demos

18 Tiered Reference: Additional Concerns Librarians must be on call for SSP support SSP staff must understand when to refer students to librarians and have ready means of communication to do so SSP staff must have a formal procedure for referring students to specialists who aren't on call

19 Potential Pitfalls Lack of motivation or insufficient training. Librarian disconnect. Reference librarians must make a greater effort to stay connected with students. Communication breakdown. Information from the desk on trends and needs must get to the librarians, who in turn must return with appropriate training. Librarians fail to use their extra time on new projects.

20 Potential Benefits Students experience less confusion in the library Reducing service points should reduce staff Cross-trained SSP staff provide more robust and consistent levels of service Librarians gain time for other duties and projects

21 Sources Bracke, Marianne Stowell, Sainath Chinnaswamy, and Elizabeth Kline. “Evolution of Reference: A New Service Model for Science and Engineering Libraries.” Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship 53 (2008): np. 2 Feb. 2009. Bradigan, Pamela S., and Ruey L. Rodman. “Single Service Point: It's All in the Design.” Medical Reference Services Quarterly 27.4 (2008): 367-78. Brunsting, Marlys. “Reference Staffing: Common Practices of Medium- Sized Academic Libraries.” Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery and Electronic Reserve 18.2 (2008): 153-80. Murphy, Beverly, et. al. “Revolution at the Library Service Desk.” Medical Reference Services Quarterly 27.4 (2008): 379-393. Watstein, Sarah Barbara, and Steven J. Bell. “Is There a Future for the Reference Desk? A Point-Counterpoint Discussion.” The Reference Librarian 49.1 (2008): 1-20.

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