Reference Services in Small and Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group, Reference Services Section, RUSA
Linda Harris, Chair,
Jan Lewis, Member-at-Large,
Colleen Seale, Past Chair,
The RUSA RSS Reference Services in Small and Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group met on
II. New Business:
Vacancies were announced at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas Woman’s University, and
Election of Member-at-Large:
Victoria A. Nozero from UNLV was elected Member-at-Large.
III. Discussion Topics:
Five topics were suggested. After voting, the rankings were as follows:
1. Reference desk design; combined Reference/Circulation desks
2. Federated searching; URL resolvers
3. Teaching critical thinking skills
4. What can public libraries do to better prepare students for their first year in college
5. Virtual reference
First Topic: Reference desk design; combined Reference/Circulation desks
At UNCC, some sections of the reference desk are ADA-compliant. They are on the back side of the desk and seldom get used.
Gallaudet has a combined Reference/Circulation desk. They have not been able to separate tasks between Reference and Circulation staff who are working at the same time. Everyone needs to know how to do everything. Before the desks were combined, Circulation staff didn’t refer questions. The combination has helped with this problem.
At the University of Oklahoma (OU), there is some support for putting Reference staff at a designated portion of the Circulation desk and provide cross-training. One reason for doing this is a decrease in the number of staff.
It seems like most public libraries that have combined Circulation and Reference have seen patron confusion and haven’t been happy with the combination. [New
The main library at the
Visibility is so important. Architects often don’t seem to be interested in library functions and needs. [TWU]
Make sure some public computers are near the desk. [UNCC]
The presentation on Saturday focused on wired spaces. Have laptops that people can move to where they want and provide plenty of connections in case they bring in their own laptops. Go back to design principles that were used 50 years ago, but include the requirement that the area be wired. [OU]
East Carolina University (ECU) used a small, low desk while its reference desk was being moved. This experience was quite positive. Patrons seemed to like being able to sit down and have mini-consultations.
As with so much, flexibility is the key. [OU]
Second Topic: Federated Searching / URL Resolvers
OU looked at four vendors for each and narrowed it down to two for each. How do we teach federated searching?
Librarians from three different institutions in
OU noted that another problem was that federated searching defaults to the “lowest common denominator” of available search features.
UNLV just implemented SFX. UNCC has Serials Solution.
Third topic: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills
Graduate students in Social Work at
This is a characteristic of the Internet generation. This attitude is seen at public libraries, too. [New
Many librarians noted that they have seen this problem. One characterized it as a “give them what they want” mentality versus a desire to develop critical thinking skills and suggested that Google encouraged this attitude, since it always found something, whereas the library catalog often did not.
TWU suggested letting students try to search in a database at the beginning of a BI session, then show them the “better way.” He also sees a conflict among library staff. One camp believes in precision searches, use of thesauri, etc., while the other believes in being thorough, which can often result in hit lists of thousands of items.
It is our role to reach critical thinking skills. The ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards support this. At
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has a First Year Learning Program which focuses on critical thinking skills. BI is part of the program.
Sometimes a patron may not accept the information / suggestions / referrals we make. [OU,
Fourth topic: What can public libraries do to better prepare students for their first year in college?
82% of students at
Some of the things students need to learn before coming to college are how to interpret citations for books, journals, etc.; that being able to use a computer is different from knowing how to use a database; and that there are resources that are not available on the Internet. [OU]
They also need to know that one of the goals of an academic library is to teach them how to research and find information on their own, rather than being given the information by a helpful librarian. [U.
We want them to know that there are tools available to use for finding books, reviews, articles, etc. [
Outreach from university libraries may help with this. [
Several academic libraries indicated that they conduct some outreach to high school students, including BI and orientation sessions. High Point Public Library also provides BI for middle and high school classes.
Gallaudet noted that they decided to use language students understand. They tell them that the library offers “scholarly search engines.” For example, the library catalog is a search engine for books.
Linda Harris announced that the time for discussion was drawing to a close. She noted that the Chair-Elect of the Discussion Group had missed the last two discussion groups and had not replied to Linda’s emails. She offered to check with RSS leadership to determine what to do. [Linda subsequently sent an email indicating that Jan Lewis, who was scheduled to become Secretary at the end of the 2004 Conference would become Chair, and that Victoria A. Nozero would become Secretary, rather than Member-at-Large.]
The meeting was adjourned at approximately