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Special Interest Group Archive: Reference 11/15/2017

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

First Meeting

The first meeting of the Reference SIG was held on Wednesday, November 15 and convened by Beth Zambito of Newburgh Free Library. Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 7 from 9:30am-12:30pm.

Discussion Notes

Reference SIG

  • Hard to convince patrons that they can only use part of a book – they need to be taught that the table of contents can be pick-and-choose.
  • That makes it hard for acquisitions – do you get it in print or online? Reference resources are very hard to choose, especially in shared systems.
    • A lot of reference is going into the circulating collection. People want to take things home.
  • Conversations happen during the reference lookup and that can become a teachable moment. That is core to academic reference, to teach the students to do it themselves. It helps to have a double screen to display what you’re doing during reference.
    • That doesn’t address anxiety in some patrons – so sometimes the reference librarians go to the students’ machines.
    • That also helps them learn on the machine that they’re going to use. Having them follow along on their laptop also helps.
    • It also addresses privacy issues.
  • Computer skills are almost non-existent across the board. Even young kids are having a hard time figuring out systems. Google drive and OneDrive are the most popular ways of saving documents.
  • ILL’s aren’t used as much, for a number of reasons: students don’t have enough time, they can’t find what they want, no access to the thing they need.

Things in common between academics and publics:

  • Connections for patrons (based on the librarian’s knowledge of resources available)
    • At academics, student workers aren’t deemed as trustworthy as librarians, even though they are more approachable.
    • Students feel OK going to students for tech questions.
    • At the public library, patrons think of every staff member as a librarian, so it helps to have a designated information desk.
  • Does everybody wear a name badge?
    • Most people could pick and choose what their badge says or if they want to wear it.
  • Perceptions of the librarians and stereotypes and misconceptions of who a librarian is.
    • At MSMC, the librarians teach, and students feel most comfortable with the librarian who taught them.
    • Relationship-building – some interactions are one-offs, but some are repeat customers.
  • Outreach and promoting services, marketing
    • How do you let patrons know that they can interrupt you?
    • Unique cases – at the CIA the students are trained in hospitality, so they are more comfortable working with students at the desk.
  • Do you check in with patrons during the reference process? Ask the question – are you comfortable with this process? Does this make sense?
    • In the public libraries, there isn’t always a long-term interaction. But you can always ask “is this helpful?”
  • Hard to keep track of all the reference materials that are available. How do you stay on top of it?
    • LibGuides are good for keeping track of good sources, but only if you can find the LibGuides, and if you have some kind of say over the layout of the website. 

Discussion topics:

  • LibGuides (how to get the public and the staff to use them, and what’s a better name for them?) “Information Treasure Map”
    • The LibGuides community can help to find similar resources used at other institutions.
    • You can integrate them with classes and help instructors have them for a class.
    • RCLS uses LibGuides, which contains the databases & book discussions.
    • It can be used for finding aids that are not cataloged.
  • The level of help that you can give people – when do you need to stop?
  • Print reference and its future – what does that mean for libraries?
    • Sometimes you need to order reference books for the regular circulating collection. (Like ABC Cleo)
    • Ready reference in a small area can be very handy.
  • What do you feel about Dewey in general?
    • It’s sometimes Western-centric and racist, and it doesn’t always help patrons go to the place they want to.
    • LOC might only work in a large library.
    • Students and patrons don’t get either system.
    • Like other challenges, the system can become a teachable moment.
  • Non-book circulating materials like e-readers – demand for them are going down.
    • Disability services department can purchase the e-book version of texbooks to put on reserve and then be used by visually impaired or learning disabled students who need accessible textbooks.
  • Future / value of reference – how to sustain the value of reference librarians.
    • Ad-free content is a value to promote.
    • How to reach a population that you never see – people who use online resources
    • Are there reference stats beyond the annual report? But they don’t tell you any details of the kinds of questions that happen.
    • Technical questions far outweigh classic reference questions. Springshare has an analytics tool to keep track.
  • Consistency of service – especially in bigger libraries where there are different knowledge levels, skill sets, cultures, & ages.
    • Do you help people do things, or help people find things? 

Photos of the Notes



These are some of the outcomes members of the group wanted for today's meeting:


  • Learn more and meet new people
  • Networking & connection
  • Find out how other libraries approach reference
  • Is interest in reference services transforming? Sustainability
  • Obtain new ideas about reference
  • Learn more about how other colleges structure the reference process
  • Gain insight into over-arching issues in reference
  • Discover ways our resources can help
  • Learn ideas to make reference more visible
  • Learn more about reference services at local libraries & in the area
  • Learn an new best-practice. 

And topics to go in-depth on next time.

  • Marketing services & promoting resources & outreach
  • The future, value of reference, the level of help


Beth Zambito Newburgh Free Library
Bridget O'Donnell Poughkeepsie Public Library District
Charles DeYoe Chester Public Library
Charlotte A. Dunaief Cornwall Public Library
Deb Weltsch Poughkeepsie Public Library District
Deborah Canzano Orange County Community College
Derek Sanderson Mount Saint Mary College
Emma Clausen SUNY New Paltz
Kira Thompson Poughkeepsie Public Library District
Oscar Chrin Rose Memorial Library
Raven Fonfa Culinary Institute of America
Sharon Fetters St. Thomas Aquinas College
Tracy Dunstan Nyack Public Library


Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065