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Special Interest Group Archive: Reference SIG 2/16/2020

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.


The meeting was held on February 16, 2021 via Zoom and was hosted by Kristin Charles-Scaringi.

Notes formatted

What reference questions have you had lately?

We haven’t had too many reference questions – mostly research appointments at Dominican. They had a bunch, so they had to split them up among three librarians. They’re also in the process of looking for someone new while the instruction librarian is interim.

                Out of the blue reference questions through chat is a lot more quiet.

At Kingston – even at the public library people can’t access SUNY Ulster annex, so they come to the public library instead. They had to learn how to field more academic questions to help out with the inquiries.

Knowing who to call is half the battle:

M: The most unusual reference question: somebody asked at IBM Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, who was the second? A call to the Smithsonian Air & Space Library got them the answer. The person actually flew in the opposite direction!

(C looked up the answer in Google.) But he also recommends contacting the authorities library institution for those kinds of questions. It’s good to go to the source directly.

Be OK with not knowing the answer to some questions.

C can’t make a long distance phone call from his office – so he has to use his own phone.

One of the issues with Reference is information overload. What do you do about that?

User design on a website is so important. It’s frustrating when there are too many places on one site to find the same information.

Websites are designed for access on phones, not desktops, and that makes a difference for how to find things.

Sometimes you get personal information overload, like the question about how to get information on rehab, and then that’s person whole story on why they asked those questions.

Most of the questions public libraries are getting involve where do I get free tax prep, and forms

AARP is not doing the free tax prep because of the pandemic. We give patrons the aarp tax aid # - 888-227-7669. And the website - www.aarpfoundation.lorg/taxaide

Adam Ruins Everything did an episode about tax prep software and how it came up.

Questions in subject areas where you know very little

Questions can vary between neighboring areas, and from academic to public libraries.

What are libraries like? How virtual are you?

Dominican is open, with reduced hours. They had a positive case on staff, and kept everyone out without interrupting services during quarantine. They’re now split into teams. Staffing the front desk is a challenge if schedules are off.

Pearl River is open to the public on a limited basis

Bronx Community is closed for in person activity; but we're doing a lot of chat reference.

Public libraries are doing a lot of chat reference. Those services are very handy. At Dominican, they have after hours chat for students who are doing late night work.

Hyde Park is open, limited to 30 minutes per patron, and computers are not in use.

Kingston has a deaf patron, but only one person on staff knows how to sign to communicate with masks on. They might utilize some old ipads to use the notepad feature to talk to each other.

Trying to define reference in this day and age…

The idea of it is evolving. A lot of the chat reference turns into phone reference for students. It’s so much better and you become a personal librarian for that person. It makes life easier.

KCS has people coming in to find her to ask for help with her specifically. One person followed her and changed libraries when she moved.

Zoom reference – some of it was over the top, if students don’t turn on their screens, it’s basically a phone call. However, once you start using screen sharing, there is a utility to this platform.

Does chat reference let you lead to Zoom reference or screen sharing??? Unknown.

Reference appointments over Zoom is preferable. It doesn’t take up space in the learning commons, it doesn’t require waiting for computers to warm up and log on.

What is something you want to take from the Covid era and keep doing?

Virtual PT has been good. It’s pretty good that you can do it right from home.

Virtual meetings allow for greater participating without having to worry about the distance. They can bring in former members who have moved. There’s an ability to connect with so many people from all over.

Being able to work from home has proved that we can if we need to do it. It’s hopeful that we can do that again if things come up.

Not getting sick at work has been a nice side effect.

No more snow days takes some adjusting.

There are a lot of programs and lectures and other things through the library that you can listen to without having to drive an hour to get to them.

In Dominican, they had semi-snow days when the weather was bad.

What are you looking forward to getting back to?

Connecting with a one-on-one session.

Visiting friends who are high risk without worrying about the risk.

More walking, and more creative places to walk and take nature hikes.

Keeping learning up has been a good outlet.

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