Implementing an Inclusive Staffing Model for Today's Reference Services: A Practical Guide for Librariansby Julia K. Nims, Paula Storm, Robert Stevens
Reference service remains a core function of modern libraries. However, how and where we provide assistance has evolved with changing technologies and the shifting habits and preferences of our users. One way libraries can provide the on-demand, in-person assistance while managing and developing new services and resources that will benefit current and future users
Reference service remains a core function of modern libraries. However, how and where we provide assistance has evolved with changing technologies and the shifting habits and preferences of our users. One way libraries can provide the on-demand, in-person assistance while managing and developing new services and resources that will benefit current and future users is to reconsider how their reference points and services are staffed and adopt a staff-based reference model.
The authors, staff members at Eastern Michigan University, chose to address this by implementing an inclusive reference model in which staff and student assistants are trained to answer certain levels of reference questions while working at the reference desk and at other service points. The result was that librarians became more available to work with students who needed in-depth assistance and users were able to get simple questions answered throughout the library. Similar training for all staff and student assistants who work in the library results in better service, more accurate answers, and improved interdepartmental communication.
In Implementing an Inclusive Staffing Model for Today's Reference Services, they describe step-by-step how to transition from the traditional librarian-staffed reference desk to an inclusive reference model where non-MLS personnel are equipped and empowered to answer reference questions wherever these questions might be asked. Users ask questions of staff at all service points, not just at the Reference Desk. It is vitally important that those who work at circulation, periodicals, maps, archives and other public service points be trained in how to answer certain reference questions. When this is accomplished, users who have simple questions will not have to make useless treks to the Reference Desk.
Topics covered include:
·Recognizing that nearly all staff answer reference questions, but few are trained to do so
·documenting the necessity for a change in reference model
·gaining buy-in from all interested partieslibrarians, non-MLS staff, and administrators
·determining the optimal staffing level
·creating training materials and schedules
·monitoring the quality of reference service
·evaluating the new model using multiple methods
Additionally, each chapter contains practical resources such as checklists, forms, and sample materials, and other usable features to support readers as they implement the inclusive reference model.
The book describes in detail the process of transforming traditional reference into a model that transcends departmental and job title boundaries, is focused on the user, and allows librarians to better utilize their time and talents, and include non-professional staff in their reference services.
Reference services have changed drastically in the last few years, and this guide is intended to be a model of how reference staff can adapt and evolve to changing technology and patron needs. The university library background of all three authors—Nims, Paula Storm, and Robert Stevens (all at Eastern Michigan Univ. Lib.) shows in their assumptions although the book is not billed as for academic libraries only; it is described as "conceived with both academic and public libraries in mind." Yet in describing various reference question classification modules and how to code the results, they refer to "having four or five librarians code the questions…," a degree of staffing that most libraries lack, leaving aside the question of even having reference librarians available for coding. The sources cited throughout include dated content, an unfortunate situation given these transformative times for reference work. A few of the bright notes: there is guidance on how best to get existing staff to participate in the changes in their work, and there are solid basic reference interview examples for training paraprofessional staff who will be on the front lines. Oddly, the authors suggest options for those experienced and educated librarians who have been displaced, such as work in higher administration, outreach, information literacy, scholarship, and collection development. What about the librarians who already have these responsibilities? VERDICT Although some fellow university librarians in references services may be interested, this is not recommended for librarians generally.—J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA
Meet the Author
Julia K. Nims has been a public services librarian for fifteen years. Currently, she works at Eastern Michigan University Library where she has been Public Services Team Leader. Julia earned an MLS from Indiana University, and a MA in History from Florida State University. She has published in RSR: Reference Services Review and the American Journal of Health Behavior, and co-edited several LOEX Conference Proceedings.
Paula Storm is the Science Librarian at Eastern Michigan University and holds an MILS from the University of Michigan. Her work has been found in Magazines for Libraries, Thinking Outside the Box: Essays for Innovative Librarians, and College & Research Libraries.
Robert Stevens earned his MLS from Wayne State University in 2000, has been a regular editor of the LOEX Conference Proceedings since 2006 and has presented at regional and national conferences on topics ranging from library instruction to Frederick Douglass. He is currently the Humanities Librarian at Eastern Michigan University.
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