MOUSS Reference Services in Small and Medium-Sized Research Libraries Discussion Group

ALA Midwinter Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
January 26, 2003

Colleen Seale, Chair, University of Florida
Linda Harris, Secretary, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Curley Jones, Member-At-Large, University of Utah
Patrick Oberholtzer, Past Chair, Gallaudet University

The RUSA MOUSS Reference Services in Small and Medium-Sized Libraries Discussion Group met on Sunday, January 26, 2003 as part of the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference at the Radisson Plaza Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The meeting was called to order at 4:40 p.m. by Colleen Seale, Chair who welcomed the group of approximately fourteen attendees. She asked if there were new attendees and introduced the Steering Committee, Patrick Oberholtzer, Past-Chair, and Linda Harris, Secretary. Everyone stated his/her name and institutional affiliation. Institutions represented were: Brooklyn College, Bronx Community College, Baruch College-City University of New York, Texas Women's University, University of Michigan, Central Piedmont Community College, University of Delaware, University of Oklahoma, Rutgers University, St. Edward's University, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, University of Florida, Gallaudet University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Colleen spent a few minutes giving the format of the meeting. A panel discussion of library school programs and open forum for the first hour and the second hour would be devoted to topics of interest selected by the discussion group. Introductions were then made of our panelists for this discussion group meeting: Dr. Jennifer Pierce, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University Purdue University, Dr. Joyce Taylor, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University Purdue University, and Dr. Danny Wallace, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Oklahoma served as the panel for the discussion topic, "Preparing Today's Reference Librarians".

Dr. Wallace spoke as an administrator on trends in reference services. He identified five trends: 1) Interdisciplinarity - increases in students coming from other programs bringing opportunities to seek courses outside Library and Information Studies courses giving students outside LIS different perspectives; 2) LIS Single Degree Programs now offering more programs - example: in 2001 a new humanities driven bachelor's degree program in information was begun at the University of Oklahoma and in 2003 a new Master's degree program in Knowledge in Science Management will begin; 3) Organizational Realignment - several mergers into other programs of which Rutgers is a model where SLIS, computer sciences and communications were merged and at Kent State where a new school with diverse units was organized; 4) Durable Knowledge - this is a culmination of trends where the core is away from practice to what people need to know to be members of a learned community. In the past students learned sources - currently, students are taught new examples of sources, not specific sources to be learned; and 5) Authentic Learning - opportunities for students to be introduced to the real world of learning in environments not the typical practicum or internship. These trends shape the current curriculum in library schools. Dr. Wallace analyzed the library and information science programs to determine the types of courses taught in the curriculum. He urged attendees to read this article (Irwin, Ray. "Characterizing the Core: What Catalog Descriptions of Mandatory Courses Reveal about LIS Schools and Librarianship," Journal of Education for Library and Information Studies 43 (Spring 2002): 175-184.) which responds to criticism that schools are no longer teaching the core courses in library and information science programs.

Dr. Pierce spoke on the approach used at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. She opened with an anecdote of someone searching for a map of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The person searches the internet, travels to two cities with no success and is ultimately assisted by a reference librarian. The aim at IUPUI is to produce librarians who can assist users in internet and print sources. Dr. Pierce distributed a handout on the curriculum required for the MLS specialization in Library Technical Management. A reference course is required for this program. Hands-on cataloging is optional. Internships can be elective. There are special courses in public library management and library philanthropy. A weakness in the program is that there is no required course for introduction to librarianship.

Dr. Taylor spoke about the required course that she teaches in the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis MLS program. The course is Information Sources and Services. Dr. Taylor advocates practice and experience. She stated that graduates need to be prepared to answer reference questions and quoted Samuel Green "a good reference librarian has to be a pleasant patron." Dr. Taylor teaches her students that librarians interact with patrons, know basic sources - types not titles, students need to know how to use sources, have a good attitude, subscribe to the following "if you don't know the answer, find out or refer" and need to know print and electronic resources. In the class students use worksheets, observe reference librarians, look, follow, learn the physical layout of the library, and observe how questions are answered. They also learn how to organize an annotated bibliography that provides an introduction to research and students are allowed to use all resources - internet, print and media, etc. A major problem revealed in this course is that students are not able to formulate search statements. Dr. Taylor distributed an abridged workbook used with the course.

The second hour of the meeting was also devoted to a discussion of the panel speakers’ presentations. During the discussion that followed the presentations, Dr. Wallace stated that a balance was needed in regard to using the web. Students are reluctant to use print sources and learning the logic of selecting sources to use. The construction of Boolean searches is a major component at the University of Oklahoma. Drs. Pierce and Taylor commented that Boolean logic is part of the courses at IUPUI. A librarian gives searching techniques on the databases at that library. Also, a practicum is required where five questions have to be answered in one hour fifteen minutes. The discussion continued with questions about the cataloging curriculum. It was stated that 8% of library programs require cataloging. Should there be concern that the course is not required? This concern can influence library programs to require the course. It was mentioned that small libraries have difficulty in recruiting librarians with cataloging expertise and academic libraries need catalogers for original cataloging. The general consensus of the group was that an “Introduction to Libraries” course still needs to be required in all library programs.

The discussion continued with where is the profession going? The need for reference librarians to assist and teach greatly expands the demand for reference librarians who also suffer from technostress with computer problems. The library schools are saturated with students and have as many students as they can handle. Knowledge managers demand and need librarians. A question was raised - "Where are graduates going that are not going to libraries?" The closing of library schools has not made an impact. Fewer schools are producing more students and there are new programs not yet accredited. Recruitment of librarians became the next topic of discussion. It was determined there is a need to recruit at an early age to young audiences. Suggestions were to 1) implement teenage library clubs and organize at the state level. Louisiana was mentioned as a state that has such a program; 2) recruit at the middle school level; 3) use bookstore personnel for recruitment to the profession although certain aspects of librarianship do not appeal to bookstore or retail personnel.

Chair, Colleen Seale thanked the panel members and discussion group participants. She encouraged everyone to attend the next meeting at ALA - Toronto, Canada in June, 2003.
The meeting ended at 6:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda S. Harris