Involvement in Bibliographic Instruction among Technical Service Librarians in Missouri Academic Libraries
Lawson, V. Lonnie, Slattery, Charles E., Library Resources & Technical Services
Involvement in Bibliographic Instruction among Technical Services Librarians in Missouri Academic Libraries
A great deal of professional attention is being paid to the concept of bibliographic instruction. The literature reveals studies that focus on the various forms bibliographic instruction may take, scenarios for its systematic implementation, and tools for measuring its effectiveness. Studies that place bibliographic instruction within a more holistic framework, specifically those which examine the pros and cons of involvement by technical services librarians in public services activities, are far fewer in number.
Although academic librarians may not view bibliographic instruction universally as the exclusive province of public services/reference librarians, the reader is no doubt familiar with some of the arguments, rationalizations, and generalizations often advanced by both public and technical services librarians regarding this issue. Our purpose in conducting this survey was to determine the degree of involvement of technical services librarians in bibliographic instruction in selected Missouri academic libraries, the extent of compensation by public services librarians in technical services activities, and the opinions of members of both divisions toward such activities.
In the fall of 1987 a questionnaire was prepared and sent to technical services and public services librarians in thirty-two academic libraries in Missouri. The survey had two parts. Part I was to be completed by the person designated as the technical services coordinator for that particular institution. This part of the questionnaire was designed to elicit factual information, especially numeric data regarding technical services staff size, degree and kind of involvement in bibliographic instruction, and the extent of reciprocal involvement by public services librarians in technical services operations.
Part II of the survey consisted of three pages of questions soliciting opinions from the technical services coordinator and other technical services librarians as well as the person designated as the coordinator of public services. The questions pertained to the involvement of technical services librarians in bibliographic instruction.
Questionnaires were sent only to those Missouri academic libraries with at least one professional librarian serving full time in a technical services position. Packets were mailed to the person designated as coordinator of technical services, who had agreed in advance over the phone to distribute Part II of the questionnaires to all technical services librarians and the public services coordinator.
Twenty-five (78%) of the 32 Missouri academic libraries participated in the survey. The libraries had 61 full-time and 3 half-time positions currently filled by technical services librarians. The greatest number employed by any one library was 11, and 12 libraries employed only one technical services librarian.
Eight of the 25 libraries engaged technical services librarians in some form of bibliographic instruction, although the perceived definition of bibliographic instruction varied from respondent to respondent. (For example, some respondents apparently do not consider activity at the public services desk to be bibliographic instruction.)
The largest number of technical services librarians was involved in working the public services area/reference desk in the evenings and on weekends. This type of involvement is limited to one or two people and varies from one to twenty hours per week.
Use of the Library classes are offered in 14 of the institutions surveyed; however, only one technical services librarian was involved in teaching them. Four institutions reported technical services librarians teaching library science courses other than the Use of the Library class, such as Cataloging and Classification, Resources in Religion and the Humanities, Reference, Administration, Book Selection, History of Books and Printing, Children's Literature, and Freshman Composition. Four libraries reported that technical services librarians were involved in the past.
Library tours were conducted by technical services librarians in 12 libraries. In decreasing order of frequency, the types of tours given were General Tours, Freshman Rhetoric/English classes, and specialized subject tours. The average length of time reported for each tour was 43 minutes. Of the 13 libraries in which technical services librarians did not presently conduct library tours, 6 reported participation by technical services librarians in the past.
Five technical services coordinators reported other activities in their institutions performed by technical services librarians that fall within the framework of bibliographic instruction. Among these were: (1) offering practicums to library science students assigned to a technical services department, (2) teaching patrons how to use NOTIS, LCSH, the card catalog, etc., (3) ad hoc group planning followed by staff and public training sessions on the use of the catalog, and (4) computer searches of all major databases. Assistance offered by technical services librarians in support of bibliographic instruction included writing chapters or sections for handbooks, creating handouts and assignments for Use of the Library classes, identifying technical services personnel with special expertise to serve as technical services resource advisors for various bibliographic instruction activities, and instructing student workers.
Twelve libraries indicated that technical services librarians have been engaged in bibliographic instruction at some time in the past. In addition to tours, reference desk duty, and teaching, other types of bibliographic instruction performed in the past were library use presentations in freshman English classes, displays, card catalog and periodical index use instructional sessions, bibliographic verification, and special seminars for specific classes utilizing videotape.
Ten of the 24 technical services coordinators reported that public services librarians reciprocated for technical services librarians' participation in bibliographic instruction by performing duties/tasks in the technical services area, such as processing activities in the acquisitions and cataloging areas. Among the types of duties reported were pre-order searching of book orders (searching card catalogs, online catalogs, or OCLC), binding preparation, security stripping of books, gathering and sending items to the technical services area, filing, and bar coding. Respondents indicated that many of these activities were performed only on an emergency basis, when a library suddenly found itself shorthanded, or in libraries where optional summer contracts affected the work flow.
Five of the respondents indicated that public services librarians have been involved in such reciprocal activities in the past. None of the libraries required public services librarians to work in the technical services area to compensate for the time technical services librarians gave to bibliographic instruction.
In answer to the inquiry of whether the public services area librarians provided help in automation activities, 11 responded yes and 11 no. The types of assistance mentioned were involvement in planning and decision making, discovering and reporting errors, determining circulation parameters, providing priorities for system enhancements, writing menus and help screens, providing user guides, training students, and performing OCLC work.
The survey findings revealed that Missouri academic technical services librarians do not disagree across the board with their colleagues in public services regarding the appropriateness of participation in bibliographic instruction. In essence, the "us versus them" (technical versus public) dichotomy did not materialize. Respondents where technical services librarians currently participate in bibliographic instruction were more positive toward technical services involvement in bibliographic instruction than the respondents where technical services respondents do not participate in bibliographic instruction. Among technical services librarians who teach courses in addition to library use classes, the attitude toward bibliographic instruction involvement was overwhelmingly positive.
Results of the survey seem to show that the use of technical services librarians in bibliographic instruction is gaining acceptance in Missouri academic libraries, but there are substantial issues to be resolved. For example, (1) should additional staffing be required in technical services areas as compensation for technical services librarians' involvement in bibliographic instruction? (2) in the event of reciprocal participation in technical services operations by public services librarians, will the latter be able to utilize their expertise in professional activities? (3) should there be a retraining period, and if so, of what duration? and (4) will the end result justify the costs?
By asking such questions we set the stage for informed decision making about the feasibility and practicality of a redefinition for technical services librarians' activities in the area of bibliographic instruction.
V. Lonnie Lawson is Science and Technology Librarian and Associate Professor, and Charles E. Slattery is Humanities Librarian and Associate Professor, Ward Edwards Library, Central Missouri State University.…
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Publication information: Article title: Involvement in Bibliographic Instruction among Technical Service Librarians in Missouri Academic Libraries. Contributors: Lawson, V. Lonnie - Author, Slattery, Charles E. - Author. Journal title: Library Resources & Technical Services. Volume: 34. Issue: 2 Publication date: April 1990. Page number: 245+. © 1989 American Library Association. COPYRIGHT 1990 Gale Group.