Reinventing Reference: How Libraries Deliver Value in the Age of Google

By Robison, Mark D. | Journal of Library Innovation, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Reinventing Reference: How Libraries Deliver Value in the Age of Google


Robison, Mark D., Journal of Library Innovation


Reinventing Reference: How Libraries Deliver Value in the Age of Google Katie Elson Anderson & Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic, editors. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2015. 192 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1278-2. $65.

As its title suggests, Reinventing Reference deals with the future of public services librarianship. But before looking ahead, its editors and contributors first situate reference in its specific historical context. They divine the future by looking to the past, analyzing the many challenges to which reference service has responded since its origins. From reference's nebulous beginnings in the late 19th century, to the recent changes at all types of libraries brought about by the revolution in digital content, reference has always been an adaptable service. In exploring this history, the book's contributors explore the central question: In the face of coming challenges, will reference remain flexible enough to stay true to its mission?

The multi-author volume is divided into three sections. Part 1, "Understanding Reference," examines the nature of reference service with an emphasis on its past, both distant and recent, including well-researched chapters on the profession's origins, its current ethical quandaries, and the impact of technological innovation on collections and services. Part 2, "Reference 2.0," looks at the current state of reference through the lenses of specific types of libraries, including academic, school, public and special. A case study about academic art librarianship provides the vehicle for examining special libraries. Part 3, "'Dude, Where's My Jetpack?': Near Future of Reference," attempts to identify the major forces that will drive change in the profession in the coming years, from the legal realities of Digital Rights Management to the evaluative leverage made possible by Big Data. This section concludes with a "Coda," envisioning the library of 2052.

The book offers an array of ideas about coming challenges and how reference librarians might respond. In Chapter 2, Zara Wilkinson and Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic note the current trends in the United States toward an older population, growing bilingualism, and a waning emphasis on traditional reading literacy in favor of access to multimedia. In response to these trends, they suggest, the profession's ethical codes such as RUSA's "Guidelines for Information Services" and the "Code of Ethics in the American Library Association" will be more important than ever if librarians are to stay true t o reference's core principles. In Chapter 4, Gary Golden looks toward the horizon of academic librarianship and forecasts the critical roles to be played by information literacy instruction, distance learning services, and further innovations in virtual reference interactions. In Chapter 6, Justin Hoenke remarks on how teenagers view the library differently from older populations, seeking experiences rather than specific information resources. He advises that librarians must design new approaches to service with this young population-tomorrow's adult library users-in mind.

In terms of proposing innovative ideas, the final chapters of the book are the most useful. In Chapter 8, John Gibson warns that Digital Rights Management (DRM), technological measures that protect digital content from being reproduced or shared illegally, might restrict future generations' capabilities to use the protected content once current formats and technologies are obsolete, presenting a real impediment to preservation. …

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