Week 3: Service Review, Virtual Reference Services at UNE

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    • #1298
      Caitlin .
      Participant

      Initially I viewed ‘Reference’as the citing of resources within an academic assignment. I am now coming to terms with the notion of reference as a service offered by libraries to assist patrons to find the information they need. Reference is changing as information becomes increasingly digitized and widely available.

      Verdesca takes the view that reference librarians and the services they provide are grossly undervalued and definitions such as mine above are overly simplistic. With reference a core component of information literacy itself, a profession that provides people with the keys to further knowledge. This view seemed to be supported in the ALA mid winter meeting where they lamented the over reliance by students on Google and Wikipedia and positioned themselves as “information guides’ necessary for students to learn to navigate information effectively and utilize the higher order thinking skills necessary for university study.

      Effective navigation is becoming increasingly important and with this notion of Librarians as Guides I began to explore the online reference services at the University of New England for Peace Studies. The university offers a range of online services including “Ask a librarian”, “Book a Librarian” a free call number for distance students and an online web based loan and inter loan form. The hours of operation, number of patrons, available librarians and accessible computers are clearly stated on the website. While all of this satisfies many of the SLQ reference guidelines, the true test of an online service is whether it can be used without assistance as many distance students do. RUSA’s guidelines suggest that a reference service involves staff /student interaction however the construction of user friendly website with virtual instructions and preemptive advice is invaluable part of the service provided to distance students.

      UNE utilizes Summon, Digital Catalogue Searches and Google Scholar providing e-reserve readings for each unit via student log in. If these fail the home page suggests subject guides. The Peace Studies guide links to chat and a specific Librarian via email and offers a search function, with tabs under the main heading offering relevant e-books, journal databases, websites and reference guides. The tab How do I …? advices how and where to search for Journal articles, including You Tube tutorials exploring credibility and peer review. The final tab offers assignment assistance specific to particular units giving new students a starting point on analyzing their assignment questions and general texts on where to look up key terms and theory.

      In our INF614 twitter chat some took the position that referencing services such as digital study guides, may in fact inhibit users from becoming active researchers and reduce their skills base in acquiring knowledge. In this case it was not merely a list but a set of useful tools to navigate vast databases. Simple searches such as Rwanda yielded no results in the general search field, so navigating as if for the first time, I utilized the ‘how to’ section to see if this yielded better results. I quickly built on my knowledge and was navigating vast databases with a critical eye.

      The provision of key subject guides including detailed information on how to conduct productive services, satisfies the CAUL guidelines for the provision of Library resources sufficient to facilitate the learning of distance students. The information, however, took some navigating to find and effective marketing to its whereabouts would further ensure equality of resources for both on and off campus students. The infrastructure was complicit with RUSA suggestions and UNE has clearly embraced the notion of digital learning. As well as increasing visibility the use of frequently asked questions or simple browser compatibility/digital navigation instructions should be examined. It would also be useful to provide tutorials on Google Scholar as navigating its settings are crucial to searching from outside the Libraries log in facilitated access. Further assisting with digital navigation post course enrolment.

      The Service attempts to be all inclusive creating a web of complex databases and millions of citations. To the Mature-Age first time student this may prove simply too much and a simpler platform may prove more useful.

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    • #1573
      Kate McKelliget
      Participant

      Hi Caitlin, I like the point that you made about subject guides not teaching students how to assess bias in the resources they’ve provided. At first I wondered if this should be the role of a reference librarian. However, if reference is becoming irrelevant, as some sources suggest, I wonder if this could become a component of their work in academic libraries. It is an important skill in any discipline, but particularly a field like Peace Studies and Politics.

    • #2299
      Chris Sonneveld
      Participant

      Hi Caitlin

      Thanks for the great post. I also thought referencing referred only to something we needed to include in our assignments and not a service offered by libraries. Throughout my study career I never thought to ask for help finding with my research. I guess I never wanted to waste the time of a librarian. I may have been lucky enough to just find it on my own. I think if I was doing an assignment that required quite a lot of references that may be difficult to get a hold of then I think I would ask for help or maybe now that I know that it’ s a service offered by libraries I might use them start using it to increase the quality of my research or spend less time seeking out references for my assignments. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reference service advertised. I have a feeling I’ll see them everywhere from now on.

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