2009 MIdwinter Minutes

COMMITTEE: Reference Services in Large Research Libraries Discussion Group


CHAIRPERSON: Sarah G. Wenzel

DATES: 25 January 2009

EMAIL: sgwenzel@uchicago.edu
OBJECTIVES: Discussion Topic: "Reference for the masses: bringing quality reference to the commons, & to remote users"


Approximately 20 people attended the Reference Services in Large Research Libraries Discussion Group. Although the group considered for a moment deviating from the announced "Reference to the Masses" topic in favor of discussion budgetary issues, it was decided to proceed as planned with a discussion of serving "information commons" (by any name).

It appears that no two "commons" are alike; however, there were some issues that all seemed to share. We discussed roving, using an article in press at the Journal of Academic Librarianship: Wells, Kimberly A. & Anne Cooper Moore, "Connecting 24/5 to Millennials: Providing Academic Support Services from a Learning Commons" (doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2008.10.016). The conclusion of the article would lead one to believe that patrons desire roving assistance, although that was not the anecdotal finding of others in the room. In addition, not all librarians are comfortable roving. In the libraries with student staff, student rovers (identifiable as staff) appear to be more successful.

An interesting point of discussion was wireless, which does not seem to have had much of an effect on existing commons.

Among those with "commons" co-managed with IT, one benefit of the situation was an increased collaboration with IT. Some frustrations involve communicating with IT staff, especially with student workers managed by IT and not by the library, and the difficulty of building a shared vision for a "commons."

Across all of the libraries present, there is no effort made to "police" the "commons" or to try to ensure that students are using the workstations for "library work."

Lastly, the group discussed nomenclature, and concluded that patrons do not care about the semantics.

If anyone has suggestions for a topic for the DG at Annual, or would like to serve as DG convenor beginning in after Annual 2010 (or would like to recommend someone for the role), please let me know.

EVALUATION: Fewer people attended than for past conferences, which may in part have been due to our meeting at a time other than the usual.