MOUSS Reference Services in Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group

1996 Annual Meeting Minutes
American Library Association Annual Meeting
Tuesday, 9 July 1996

Margaret Power of DePaul University called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m.

1. Job announcements.

2. Election of New Member of Steering Committee.

3. REFERENCE STATISTICS.
University of Maine: Recently changed their form to drop computer assistance, since most reference interactions involve this now. They added a category for extended reference service. Statistics were down this year, but the perception of the workload is that it did not decrease. They are doing more work with more difficult questions. Their extended reference includes more than ten minutes on a question or the use of more than three resources to answer. When asked off the desk, they make a record of the time spent per librarian spent on questions. For questions that require more than 15 minutes of off-desk time, a separate sheet is filled out and reported with monthly and annual statistics.
San Francisco State University: Is mandated to turn in statistics by the state. They do sampling of two weeks per semester. They are too busy to take accurate statistics always but think that sampling is better. They also do extended and off-desk categories.
University of Oklahoma: Passed out sample sheets. Wants to know if there is a software program to analyze data.
University of Rochester (Science Library): Keeps statistics for the first week of every month. They distinguish between phone and in-person questions. They also differentiate between journal and conference questions. Questions regarding conference proceedings are the most difficult in a science library. They use conference statistics to get conference reports in journals cataloged.
SUNY Albany: Just went from daily statistics to sampling, They use representative weeks based on a study. Four two-week periods are sampled to collect statistics from the busiest, average, and least busy periods. Questions taking more than 5 minutes went up 125% last year.
DePaul: Wants to add category for extended reference.
Tufts University: Just finished new way of doing statistics. They did a random sample. A librarian working on a PhD in sociology set up random days and is working it out through a statistical package. Statistics are taken on sample days for weekdays and weekends.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Supplements reference desk statistics with transaction logs collected by electronic service statistics.
Texas Woman's University: No longer needs to track statistics for staffing patterns -- this is well established since 1978 and not changing. Does statistics only by the day -- they don't need hourly data. They only do one week of the year that is representative of service levels (usually the first week in October). They do not collect statistics that they do not use. They collect statistics for all reference points and branch campuses at the same time.
University of Vermont: What do you do when your statistics show a decline in transactions?
Texas Woman's University: Need to have an ingenious explanation. Their statistics went down when they lost staff and reorganized the department. Reference librarians could be spending more time on fewer questions.
University of Oklahoma: Has decentralized automation services with three different places for assistance that are not tracked by statistics. Decline may be based on how transactions are defined. Their front lines are students who have different statistics form and are trained.
Adelphi University: Enrollment is declining and bibliographic instruction is good, so desk statistics are down.
University of Arkansas. When our statistics are going up, nothing happens in response. They provide a lot of assistance to unaffiliated users. They are beginning to track statistics on assistance to unaffiliated users.
Brooklyn College: High school students come in. They insist that the high school teachers come to training first.
University of Wisconsin-Madison: Workload has increased despite declining enrollment. Intensity and duration of the transactions has become more involved. Statistics may be down, but time spent with each person is vastly increased, partly because of availability of electronic resources. We need to teach people how to use software, search, print, etc.
SUNY Albany: Did a meta-analysis of statistics from reference and circulation over a ten year period, normalized for changes in enrollment. There are now one-third fewer people in the library at any given time than ten years ago, but librarians feel overwhelmed because of the need to help people with electronic resources. People are doing higher levels of research than ten years ago and using sources they would not have had access to ten years ago.
University of Texas-Arlington: Does anyone count the people that are not being served? How do you count paper replacement, ink, etc.?
University of Maine: Uses a student assistant to maintain paper, answer basic questions, etc. This has helped with the long lines. He records statistics. Some libraries have added separate categories for supplies, equipment, etc.
Iowa State University: Had students do an observational sample of statistics by watching how many times people came to the desk. Their statistics matched those collected by the librarians.

4. REFERENCE DEPARTMENT WEB PAGES.
Approximately 50% of librarians attended the meeting have reference Web pages.
Cleveland State University: Has a "quick reference" Web page, service policies, an FAQ, and also subject specific links.
University of Maine: Home page mostly has description of services, librarians to contact in subject areas, etc. A separate section has guides to resources by subjects corresponding more or less to colleges and departments.
University of North Caroline-Greensboro: They have similar page to others. They are building subject pages. How far should they go in doing this? Can we afford the time to both build and maintain these pages? If we all do this we are reinventing the wheel.
University of Maine: Librarians who do not know html can give addresses to catalogers who will put them into the standard template format. Recent graduate,
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: If the reference department is the liaison between the departments, reference staff can help faculty create pages and build lists. All of the Web is borrowing from each other. They have a page to help faculty build lists and create monitored lists: http://ils.unc.edu/listserv http://ils.unc.edu/spiralarm/wilt.htm
St. John's University: MOPSS is planning a Web page and is interested in samples from libraries.
Peekskill Public Library: In addition to a page for the reference department, included a page for each special collection and linked to the reference page. Examples include bar association collection, Down's syndrome collection, etc.
Notre Dame: Tried to disable e-mail, but students figured it out. They limit non-affiliated users when it is busy.
DePaul: As more instructors incorporate the Web into teaching and include e-mail and lists as part for the class, it becomes harder to say that this is not appropriate use of the machines.
University of Oklahoma: Has minimal policies in the electronic information center. When things are busy, use is limited to 30 minutes, Research has priority over recreation.
Humboldt State University: Limits to 30 minutes. They tried to make the machines Internet only. They refer e-mail to computer center labs.
San Francisco State: They are just setting up a page and policies. They will only have one expert in html who will take care of everything. Since all librarians have so many subject responsibilities, how can they be experts on the web in all of them?
Iowa State University: Has a reference home page consists mostly of links to services. All links to resources are from the library home page, not from the reference page. Reference librarians make recommendations for selections to the coordinators who pass it on to the web task force.
DePaul: Has a library page that has just grown up and now is looking at it. They are working towards having the home page be the face of the library inside the building.
James Madison University: Are people looking to work with cataloging to set up pages?
Peekskill Public Library: Westchester Library system is compiling a notebook of web sites organized by the Dewey Decimal system.
Texas Woman's University: Their Library Web page is for the entire library system. The person responsible for each area channels Web page material to a Webmaster who gets it into the system. People are working on various subject guides. They are concentrating on the best gateways. They do not rely on any one list. They link to different sites and have different updating schedules.
University of Maine: Momspider runs every week or so. One of their catalogers is Webmaster for the campus.

5. E-MAIL REFERENCE SERVICES.
San Francisco State University: They are starting it this fall. They are setting up guidelines.
San Diego State: Reports not much traffic at all. SUNY Albany: reports the same.
University of Arkansas. Once e-mail links are loaded on home pages you will get lots of questions from all over.
Texas Woman's University: E-mail reference is tied to the online catalog, not the Web page. Because of contractual obligations, outside users are blocked from some activities. Only campus community can get into e-mail reference. They have not been inundated. One staff member checks the e-mail and refers questions. They continue to get a lot of phone reference questions. They sometimes ask people to come in for appointments.
San Francisco State: Will limit access to @sfsu.edu users only.
Humboldt State. As we move to a more distance education-based world, we will have to offer services to everyone.
University of Maine: E-mail on the Web page has become a favorite electronic source. Some questions come from out of state. Questions can be referred back to local libraries. The library has an obligation to Maine taxpayers. A FirstClass system bulletin board has a reference question category.

6. BEHAVIORAL GUIDELINES.
DePaul: Uses guidelines with students and will be discussing at a reference meeting. David Tyckoson mentioned that behavioral guidelines for librarians, focusing on how we interact with users, were two years in development and required two years for approval. They will be published in the next RQ. They will also be posted on LIBREF-L. These are official RASD guidelines, but not standards. He thinks they correlate to patron satisfaction, but hasn't subjected the idea to rigorous research. Tyckoson has made videos to supplement the guidelines. The uses will be with library science students and in training new staff members. The videos will not be sold.
SUNY Albany: Try www.albany.edu/library for a "great reference page" and sites of interest to library staff.

Minutes submitted by Christine Whittington, University of Maine 11 February 1997