RUSA Reference Services Section RSS Hot Topics in Frontline Reference Midwinter 2008 Highlights

COMMITTEE: Hot Topics in Frontline Reference Discussion Group


CHAIRPERSON: Patrick Oberholtzer

DATES: Saturday, January 12, 2008


MEMBERS PRESENT: Members present: Steering Committee members Danielle Theiss-White, Tina Plottel, and Suzy Szasz Palmer all present

MEMBERS ABSENT: Members absent: None

VISITORS: Visitors: 66 plus

OBJECTIVES: This discussion group has been charged with providing a forum for the informal exchange of information and the discussion of current issues in frontline reference in all types of libraries. Reference librarians and any other adult services librarians are welcome to participate.

SUMMARY: The advertised topic for the meeting was: Combining Service Desks: Toward a Single Service Point for Library Users Lisa Horowitz, Coordinator of Central Reference Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [] led off the meeting with a discussion of how MIT combined their reference and circulation services. MIT decided about 10 years ago to move towards combined service. As background, she noted that MIT has 5 libraries, none of which is considered the "main" library. Initially, the process was slow and not mandatory, with staff in each library voluntarily agreeing to share responsibilities between reference and circulation. While this has become more formalized, there are still differences in each of the libraries for how the shared staffing is actually implemented. One reality driving the decision to move towards a single service point: circulation staff are answering reference questions anyway without training; a concerted effort to combine services might actually lend itself to better training opportunities. The floor was then opened for questions and comments.

The session was extremely well attended, with sixty-six (66) people signing the attendance sheet. (The actual number present may well have been higher, as many people were standing.) While this was good news in many ways, the number of people present and the size of the room might actually have deterred "discussion." The majority (approximately two-thirds) of those in attendance were from academic libraries, the remainder from public (except for two from state libraries).

EVALUATION: Good discussion and exchange of ideas and experiences.

PROBLEMS: Not enough chairs!