Monday, January 25, 2010

Group 1 discussion: Reference

Participants: Kathryn Wayne (Berkeley); Miki Goral (UCLA); Penny Coppernoll-Blach (San Diego); Teal Smith (Merced); Gayatri Singh (San Diego); Ken Furuta (Riverside).

Note – I’ve rearranged these notes along topics instead of chronological.

What do we know about the current students?

Perhaps not as much as we think we do. We make assumptions about how they like to communicate, etc. But how valid are those assumptions? We should conduct a more formal study of current students.

Future of the physical reference desk

Physical reference desk statistics have been dropping. However, these was no consensus on the future of the physical reference desk.

Many thought personal contact was very important. However, Merced doesn’t have a physical desk. At Merced, students at the service desk are the first contact. Patrons are referred to librarians if more depth is needed.

Some libraries, such as the San Diego and the UCLA Biomed Libraries, have altered staffing. San Diego implemented on-call scheduling; UCLA merged the desk with circulation. Other libraries have instituted “roving” students who, wearing “uniforms,” circulate through out the library and contact others needing assistance. That led to a brief discussion as to whether an MLS was necessary to staff the reference desk. Again, there is no consensus.

Given the above, we wondered if we are entering an era where we are more general approach in reference where we do a little of everything. This may especially hold for the larger campuses with numerous branch libraries.

[As the reporter (Ken) I’d like to drop in a comment. I’m struck by the variety of approaches different UC Libraries have adopted. For me, this diversity can be a strength if we can learn from each other’s solutions and assessments of the results.]

Text & Chat

All of the participants staff chat reference. There was consensus that the current capabilities of QuestionPoint for chat reference could be improved. It should be more reliable and upgraded to include other options. We also agreed that it has served as a “gateway” to other avenues of contact with the student. An example is the complex question where the best answer is to visit the physical reference desk.

One comment was that “we need more intuitive library websites.” [Reporters comment again. Various librarians through out the system have been interested in using chat reference results to improve their websites. The librarians staffing it are “expert” users in a sense. There hasn’t been anything formal on this that I know, however.]

Web 2.0

UC Libraries have been exploring Facebook and Twitter. Riverside has a presence on both. Three libraries at San Diego are on Twitter.

[Ken’s comments again: In conclusion, it’s not surprising that we didn’t reach consensus on most of the topics. The group is in the brainstorming phase at the very beginning of the conversation. However, we were able to lay a foundation for continued discussion.]


Linda said...

There are some very interesting ideas from the various campuses that are worth exploring. I think it is worth surveying students to find out more about their communication behaviors. Reference is an important function and it is worth looking at how to change interactions with students and other library users.

Matt said...

Yes, I think that reference is a prime idea for surveys. Suggested questions should be posted to the LAUC wiki at