Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Reference Round Table Turns 50! Celebrating Five Decades of Reference Service in Texas

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

Reference Round Table Turns 50! Celebrating Five Decades of Reference Service in Texas

Article excerpt

The introduction to the Proceedings of the 1968 Pre-Conference Seminar on Reference Services in Texas described the passion for service shared by all reference librarians as well as the beginnings of the Reference Round Table (RRT). The group petitioned the Texas Library Association in 1963, and the RRT was established in 1964 (Texas Library Association). The purpose of this article is to both celebrate the 50th anniversary of the RRT as well as provide an overview of some of the literature written by Texas librarians on reference services. The authors looked at overarching trends in reference service in Texas for the last 50 years including innovations. The piece is organized by major themes for each decade.

1960's: Collaboration, Cooperation, & Communication

Texas reference librarians in the second half of the 1960 s seemed most concerned with improving services to their patrons through collaboration, cooperation, and communication. Ann Graves, director of the Reference Division of the Texas State Library, described how they would be able to innovatively transform reference service with their new Telex system which would be a network lending system for small, medium, and large libraries in Texas (Graves). A public library in Corpus Christi created a reference referral librarian position and dedicated a phone line to the service to allow staff at smaller south Texas public libraries to call in reference requests if they did not have the material at their library to answer a patrons reference question (Winship). Major Resource Center (MRC) libraries were centered around supporting reference services in smaller public libraries given the lack of materials to address all reference questions (Cragin, Duggan 1969, Kronick & Winship) or working in cooperation with schools to provide supplemental reference service to students in the area (Weaver). Throughout Texas, collaborative reference services occurred in person, over the phone, through mail, and via teletype (Paddock).

Another means of cooperation among libraries was "The Texas List," which was a union catalog of serials holdings in Texas that started in the early 1960's. The author noted that, with the technology of the photocopier becoming more affordable, "the list" could be widely dispersed. However, the problem with that method of gathering information and typing up the holdings was that the list was out of date almost as soon as it was published (Richardson).

1970's: Networks & Efficiency

The 1970 issue of the Texas Library Journal preceding the RRT preconference emphatically proclaimed: "Networks are in!" Networks, not collaboration or cooperation, appeared to be the new buzz word for the decade, but the goal was the same: to provide satisfactory reference services to patrons across Texas who needed answers to questions (Ghomert). Library automation provided faster access to information where the librarian was the connection between the user and the information need. Corbin asked in his article on "Causes and Effects of Library Automation" if computers would create impersonal library services but concluded that photocopiers and typewriters have not done so and therefore noted that libraries which automated would see a reduction in the number of people necessary to run the library (Corbin).

In an effort to become more efficient, one academic library performed a threeyear study of its reference questions from 1973-1975 to determine ways to reduce the number of directional, informational, and procedural questions received and increase the quality and quantity of general reference questions. The library added directional signage and provided more written policies available for patrons to read; however, even after doing this, "Students continued to ask for specific types of material, often coming to the library directly from class and asking by title for books instructors had mentioned in class. Library staff were not able to find an effective way of reducing this type of question. …

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