MOUSS Reference Services in Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group

1995 ALA Annual Meeting
June 1995
Chicago, IL

Mary Mintz, Chair, American University introduced the members of the steering committee:

Margaret Power, DePaul University, Secretary
Chris Whittington, University of Maine
Elliot Gertel, California State-Fullerton
Kathryn Ryan-Zeugner, University of Notre Dame, past chair (not present)

Approximately 50 members attended the session. Mary Mintz asked for discussion of the meeting time of this group , given its placement near the end of the conference. By universal agreement it was decided to change the meeting time to 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. with no break. After announcements of open positions, an election was held for a new member of the steering committee: interested candidates were John Hepner, Reference and Documents Librarian at Texas Woman's University and Jennifer Heise, Reference Librarian at Lehigh University. John Hepner was elected and will join the steering committee .

It was discussed and agreed to use E-Mail as the primary form of announcement and communication with the discussion group.


Topics 1. Training for part-time reference librarians - and- 2. New Models of Reference Service
While these were originally two different agenda items, in the descriptions/discussion of training, both staffing and new staffing models were brought up as well.

Three categories of part-time were identified: staff from other public service units who work shifts in Reference; staff from technical service units who work shifts in reference; Reference librarians who are actual part-time employees. Representative from NYU Medical Center library described the Reference 101 class that was developed for librarians and paraprofessionals. Texas Woman's University reported that the entire full-time staff rotates through the reference desk. Changes and announcements are handled with e-mail. The person responsible for staff training logs about 25 hours a year; training is focused on new electronic products.

Many libraries reported using a mix of librarians, paraprofessionals and students at the Reference Desk , a pattern that presents specific kinds of training issues. Information and Reference are combined at some institutions with different levels of staff working together and at others they are two separate locations. Washington University reported a combined Reference and Information Desk (called a Help Desk) staffed by a librarian, a paraprofessional and a student. While this model extends staff and addresses the referral problem, they feel that it impedes experienced librarians from learning from colleagues. At Sonoma State there had been some hours where Reference librarians were only on call, but the pattern now is to provide service with one librarian and one paraprofessional. Training is integrated into Reference meetings, either source-based or topic based. At George Washington Univ. they are interested in combining the separate Information desk with Reference as they face the perennial problem of training people to sort "reference" from "directional" questions and refer gracefully. Roving assistance was reported by SUNY Albany and others. At NYU Medical Ctr Reference and Circulation staff are cross trained. They also report a possible future trend ---Reference by Beeper!

3. Charging for Printing in the Reference Area
In a poll of the audience approximately five people reported that their institution charged for printing although several others indicated interest. The cost of paper and toner were cited by many. San Jose State commented that print costs there are estimated at over $30,000 per year. There were mixed reports on the efficacy of coin operated printing regarding cost and maintenance problems. Sonoma State reported that the debit cards have worked well. Several people commented on the capital outlay required for many of the charging systems. When there is a charge for printing, downloading business picks up. Various methods for dispensing vending cards and diskettes were reported. Some are sold at the circulation desk, some by vending machine. At NYU students get an account with 250-500 copies on a card. One interesting idea we heard was giving copy cards as a bonus for attending a library instruction workshop. One of the factors that will drive the need to consider charging for many libraries is the availability of full text. Texas Woman's University, for example, allows free printing from bibliographic CDROMs but charges for full text.

4. Electronic formats, reference, non-reference
Many products other than bibliographic or "reference" works are available as CD-ROM or multimedia titles. Libraries face the organizational issue of location and service. Some libraries reported that multi-media titles are housed in a separate lab (Texas Woman's University) or as part of Media Services . Such is the case, for example, at American University although Reference librarians do provide some service in that area. on a rotating basis. Others such as Cleveland State have equipment dispersed in several areas. There was sufficient interest in the topic to reschedule it for the Midwinter meeting.