The Quiet Revolution: Reference Services in Public Libraries

By Armstrong, Anne | Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, September 2002 | Go to article overview

The Quiet Revolution: Reference Services in Public Libraries


Armstrong, Anne, Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services


An exploration, using interviews with Victorian practitioners, of current and emerging issues for reference services in public libraries in the context of the internet, the wide range of resources and formats now provided in them, and changing user expectations

**********

The following OED definitions manifestly, regardless of any general perceptions, no longer reflect the role of a librarian, or what a library is today.

   Librarian: n. somebody who works in or who is in charge of a library.
   Formed from the Latin librarius (see Library) literally `of books' also
   `scribe' somebody concemed with books

   Library n. 1. a collection of books for reading or borrowing. 2. a room or
   building where these are kept 3. a series of books issued in similar
   bindings

   Reference n. 1. a direction to a book (or a passage in it) where
   information can be found 2. the act of looking up a passage, or of
   referring a person to information- Reference Library or Room, one providing
   books that may be consulted but not taken away

Those definitions may still be reflected in perceptions within society about what a librarian does in the library. In the past, the role of reference librarians was clear by their title. They would refer the user to a specific reference book within the walls of the library to assist in answering a question.

The internet has changed perceptions and expectations. Reference services in public libraries--all libraries--have had to respond quickly as the multilane information freeway has expanded, together with the enthusiasm and expectations of users. The traditional pathways to finding answers to questions have altered course, to the point where the information flow is so vast that the first job of reference librarians is to select, untangle and draw out relevant information into an understandable format.

As McCullagh has stated

   Reference librarians face the challenge of sifting through the myriad of
   information, to provide fast and convenient access to the best available
   resources. By combining them with the library's collections customers can
   have a seamless interface to all available information, regardless of
   format, to assist their learning and research process. (1)

It is against this backdrop that a number of Victorian reference librarians working at the forefront of these changes were interviewed. I wanted to find out how they are responding. What are the issues emerging from the electronic explosion? Is it now time to reassess what the role of a reference librarian is? Are we responding adequately to user expectations, given the increasing focus on developing information literate citizens?

One interviewee, Jill Watson, the Information Services Librarian at Bayside Libraries in Melbourne, observed

   We mightn't be asked as many questions, but we now have evidence of the
   complexity and time spent on these questions. These enquiries must be
   quantified and included in our reference statistics in order to reflect
   such changes.

   We must measure how many online hits we are getting on our webpage and the
   online databases we provide and capture the `virtual' patrons and add these
   enquiries to our statistics.

Charles McClure, director of Information Use Management at Florida State University makes a related point in relation to electronic reference

   As traditional statistics for circulation and inhouse reference decline,
   libraries underreport their electronic activity, because they can't count
   effectively what they do in the networked environment. (2)

This is an important aspect of electronic reference which librarians must quantify on a regular basis to identify from where enquiries are coming, and how the skills and time of librarians are Ring used. Without this data they cannot illustrate what users are searching for, and how they should be responding in terms of collection development. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Quiet Revolution: Reference Services in Public Libraries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.