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THE CRISIS IN REFERENCE SERVICE: A VIEW FROM THE TRENCHES

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mark Schumacher, Reference Librarian (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Hernon and McClure make a number of important points in the lead article of the symposium on "Library Reference Service: an Unrecognized Crisis." It is certainly true, for instance, that reference departments should be able to answer more than 55% of the factual questions asked at the reference desk; reference librarians ”clearly• should not simply say "I don't know" and go on about their business, leaving the patron to fend for him/herself. And they ”surely• should not display "abrasive behavior" to patrons. Having said that, it seems that there remains, from their statements, a certain image of current reference practice which needs to be nuanced a bit, and which in fact the respondents begin to touch upon in their pieces, by placing the results of unobtrusive testing at the reference desk in a broader context. We can see in fact that the questions raised by Hernon and McClure lead to reflections on a number of major issues of public services librarianship: the relationship between public and technical services, patterns of reference desk staffing, the role of library education, and the ongoing crises in funding for public services. I would like to respond to the comments of the various symposium participants by presenting a "view from the trenches," the perspective of a reference librarian who works at the desk twelve to twenty hours a week, encountering the challenges, the frustrations, but also the exhilaration and rewards which that position provides.

Additional Information

Publication
Journal of Academic Librarianship, November 1987, pp. 278-279
Language: English
Date: 1987
Keywords
Reference service, Crisis, Staffing, Library education, Funding, Public services, Trenches