Week 3 | Service Review | Reflecting on a Reference Service experience

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    • #803
      Peldon P
      Participant

      It was understood from this week’s class that there are basically two types of referencing namely the physical (face-to-face) and virtual (online). Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) in Anthony Verdesca (2015) has defined reference as reference transaction; “information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate and use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs.”

      The full functionality of a library was not known to me before studying in QUT. Where I have come from, people mostly associate libraries with books only. There the librarians are usually high school graduates whose job responsibilities are to stamp out books, shelving/re-shelving and ensuring silence in the library etc. There were no auto-checkout systems we have here. Having said that, when I had first seen the libraries here, I was truly overwhelmed. The library does much more than what I was accustomed to; there is simply so much information available on the library website that sometimes I get lost. That is the time I resort to physical reference. I am a frequent visitor to the QUT Library and I go with a range of issues from using Endnote, Lynda.com to finding references for my assignments. This issue aligns with The Laura Saunders (2012) article that says a Reference Librarian should be a ‘jack of all trades’ and must train themselves in other areas too, not just in reference section.

      The first line of help is always the ‘Library Helpdesk’, these people on most occasions teach/demonstrate how search is performed on the library databases. They also teach us about the advanced search features but if you need help beyond that these staff would escalate the issue to the next level of support. This kind of service is known as the ‘tiered service’ as explained in ‘Laura Saunders (2012) that libraries may staff the service desk with non-professionals who answers only the basic questions and refers the complex questions to the professional reference librarians. However, Keren Barner (2011) argues that there isn’t one best organizational structure for academic libraries rather dependent on user needs, wants and capabilities.

      In addition to the face-to-face, I have also used the virtual reference service on two occasions. Since I could not come to the library personally, I contacted the staff on ‘Chat to a Librarian’ service of QUT Library. Compared to the face-to-face, I found this service poor mainly because the librarian on the other side of the chat took forever to respond to a simple query. When I could finally get their attention, the information they provided was not what I was looking for. On both the occasions I was little dissatisfied with the service. However, it is not enough to say virtual reference isn’t good across the academic and public libraries. Laura Saunders (2011) states the importance of virtual service to reach out to remote and distant users. In fact, she recommends a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual service, the so called ‘blended format’ to cater to the needs of all the library patrons.

      • This topic was modified 5 years, 2 months ago by Peldon P.
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    • #989
      Kate McKelliget
      Participant

      Hi Peldon! You seem to use reference services quite frequently, despite the fact that the literature often speaks about how it is becoming irrelevant. I found it really interesting how your use and perceptions of libraries changed when you arrived at QUT. This post was helpful for me as it served as a reminder that librarians must consider a user’s whole story when trying to understand their needs.

    • #1062
      Peldon P
      Participant

      Hello Kate, yes I am a frequent user of the library except I didn’t know what I was doing was using the reference service of the library. Thanks for dropping by.

    • #1417

      Hi Peldon, I liked your reflection and found your experience of using the QUT Library interesting. Like you, I also have used the librarians as a sort of ‘jack of all trades’ service – asking questions about a wide range of topics. I thought the Laura Saunders article was a practical response to what happens in libraries every day with users like you and I. I had no idea I was accessing a “reference service” until this course spelled that out for me. Because we now have a greater understanding of the way in which the library works, do you think we’ll use the library differently or approach questions in a more considered way? I’m not sure. I think three will always be times when you need help but it’s dificult to articulate what it is that you need. It’s great to know that the reference service will be flexible enough to help in those situations. I agree with your conclusion about the hybrid service being best – that chat service is great for short and specific questions but when you have a more complex or difficult question the face-to-face interview is much more helpful.

    • #2109
      Clare Thorpe
      Keymaster

      Peldon I like how you used the library and didn’t need to know that what you were accessing was a “reference service”. We sometimes label our activities to meet our reporting or organisational requirements but this type of labelling is irrelevant to clients. It doesn’t matter what we call it if it is meeting clients’ needs and connecting people with information.

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