2008 Midwinter Discussion Highlights

COMMITTEE: Reference Services in Public Libraries Discussion Group


Adrianne Peterson




: N/A


Discussion of current issues impacting reference services in public libraries.


Discussion included: - Need for a specific framework for future service plans - online, in-house, out of library. - Meebo - IM'ing answers to to reference questions (King County) . - Explore a different staffing model for public libraries - similar to the medical profession where MLS staff act as consultants (like doctors) - other staff take preliminary information from patrons then pass the real question on to the professionals. - Using texting - send patrons reminders of holds. To avoid people getting charged for excessive texts, they'd have to request to be added to this service. - Charge for printing or not? Most use print management systems. One gives the first five pages free then charges after that. Copy cards are readily used. King County does not charge, unless over a specific (high) amount. - Issue of communication between circulation staff and librarians. - Time limits on computers. Express computers. How to regulate abuse? Some provide PIN numbers for patrons to alleviate those who memorize multiple card numbers and abuse the system. Guest passes - various time limits (some are day passes; Washington DC's are good for three months). - How to streamline processes (computer use, printing) without negatively impacting patrons? Are problems being created with automation because librarians are now spending much time acting as computer/printing techs, taking them away from traditional duties? - Computer labs - some have them and are ideal settings for classes. Having techs there (even college students, volunteers) would be ideal, to free librarians for reference work. There are web-based word processing programs that patrons may utilize when libraries do not offer the software: Zoho Writer, Google Documents, Fly Word. - Chicago PL partners with womenemployed.org for career counseling. - Universally computer classes offered are: Word, Excel, Publisher, resume writing, email. - Another class idea: practice time for seniors - basic internet searching, EBay, etc. - Some loan laptaps within the building (have wireless access). - Some have mobile labs to teach classes - laptops in sturdy cases. - Chicago PL has a security system for its laptops - deactivates if removed from the building. - Some libraries utilize volunteers to teach classes. - Idea to create a tutorial via Flash or on YouTube to instruct patrons how to use databases, place holds, etc. - Databases are under-utilized. - Need for resume assistance. - Self check out allows staff to rove, be in the stacks. - Thousand Oaks, CA does roving. Staff schedules alternate from on desk to roving, one hour at a time. Have to be careful not to be too intrusive with patrons, or give the perception that you are spying on them - especially when they are using computers. There is a need to come up with novel ways of saying, 'May I help you?" or "Are you finding what you need?" Have to acquire a second sense on whether people do or don't want help. Find that making an intial contact, even brief is helpful to open the door for later questions. Establishing oneself as there and available is crucial. Continuing problem that, despite rovers, people still want to go the traditional route and queue up at the desk. It takes time to make people feel comfortable when staff move out from behind the desk. - Statistics - most collect them periodically, on computer use, reference questions, door counts, behavioral issues. Helps to evaluate busy times and determine staffing needs. - Most outreach is geared toward children and teens. Some do outreach at senior centers. - Coffee carts vs self-vending. Tempe Public Library has its own barista. - Discussed self check-outs (most moving toward this) and self pick up of hold. Confidentiality issues associated with this. - Jukebox model for patrons to check out DVDs? - Downloadable audio is still cumbersome and does not work with IPods. Downloadable video is not proving to be popular. Selection is dated. Netflix is cheap, easy and current, in comparison. - Playaways - popular with those who offer them. Available for all ages. - New methods of communicating with patrons - email and automated phone calls for holds. Trillion (like Meebo) for IM Reference - mainly teens and genealogists use it. - Idea of using IM to communicate with other branches, to do self checks, etc. - Issue of parents doing homework for kids. How much should staff help with texts, quizzes over the phone? Should there be limits to the number of questions answered over the phone? - Handling health/legal questions - staff show resources but do not interpret or give advice. - The National Library of Medicine offers staff training on resources (Medline, etc). www.nnlm.gov .

EVALUATION: A very successful meeting with productive discussion!