Reference and Services Trends in Public Libraries

Here are some thoughts I have gathered, some from professional literature, some from blogs, some straight from my own heart.

We are talking about reference and how it is changing in UPLIFT this week: August 15 at the Utah State Library & August 17 2012 in Ephraim, at the Karen A. Hunstman Library on the Snow College campus. Thanks, Jon Ostler, for being so accommodating to the public library directors and others who are coming on campus.

Reference and Services Trends in Public Libraries

  • Traditional reference work is less relevant to the needs of users
  • Rather than worrying about reference’s demise, many librarians have been energized by their newly expanded roles
  • Reconfigured or eliminated reference desks
  • Consolidated desks and services
  • Librarian and support staff work together on the one main desk
  • Librarian can handle more complicated questions
  • Increased training for support staff to handle basic reference questions
  • The reference interview is as pertinent as ever
  • Roving reference is more important—getting out to where people are
  • Expansion of self-service options (self-checkout, online group study room reservations, self-service holds, and touch screen frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) on your website/ library catalog
  • Reconfiguring online reference resources for smartphones and other mobile devices
  • Librarians are exploring new roles in reaching out to meet information needs
  • Reference through the stacks and other indirect means
  • Reduction/elimination of print reference collections
  • Greater marketing and promotion of online resources and services
  • Librarians will spend less time staffing desks and more time outside of library walls
  • Online reference: email, chat, Instant Messaging, and SMS (short messaging services) reaches users who may not visit the library
  • Online reference requires continual marketing to be successful
  • Collaborating with other organizations will do as much to keep libraries alive as any project or program
  • Embedded librarianship: becoming an integral part. Getting close to users by getting out into the community; being actively present with the user at the point of need.
  • The big shift: we’re not doing things “for” the community, but we’re being a part “of” the community
  • Libraries are shifting from the physical to the virtual facilities and media; from an individual to a community focus; from being a collection library to being a creation library; from being an archive to being a portal

Published by

Colleen Eggett

Colleen Eggett is the Library Resources Program Manager for the Utah State Library in Salt Lake City UT.