|dc.description.abstract||Digital resources and technologies have brought new dimensions to librarianship and traditional reference services. At the University of Kansas (KU) Libraries, reference services have been evolving and reconfigured several times over the past decade. Historically, traditional desk-bound reference services have been offered. But in 2002, KU Libraries sought to redefine its reference services at the two largest libraries on campus - Watson and Anschutz Libraries. Modifications to the service models have been largely in response to changing user behaviors, technologically-enhanced access to information and scholarly resources, and the better utilization of library faculty time.
Some of these modifications to reference services included all or some of the following initiatives: the implementation of a “peer and tier” model that relied on student employees as front-line service attendants with librarians available as back-up; paraprofessionals (i.e., not librarians) at the desks; cross-training staff members from other departments to provide reference services; combined circulation/reference service points; and vigorous approaches to training all desk personnel. At the same time, chat and other virtual reference services were initiated to provide users additional ways of contacting the Libraries for research assistance. Recent considerations and debate have centered on the continued relevance of reference service in an era of increasing self-service; maintaining a user-centered philosophy; adding value to services provided; training for generalist-level proficiency; and seeking ways to deploy technological tools that can be personalized to meet immediate user needs.
Furthermore, librarians are taking on expanded leadership roles in areas such as open access, copyright, classroom teaching, and scholarly communication. And while the number of reference questions at the desk continues to decline, the questions are growing in complexity. Some libraries are moving to a team-based structure that helps develop a shared accountability for providing excellent service to meet the changing needs of users and respond to rapid changes in the scholarly environment. Given these realities, should librarians continue to staff the reference desk? In the absence of professional librarians, how can user services managers maintain a core level of expertise in staff that can assist users with general research needs? Should specialized research assistance move away from the physical reference desk and be, instead, individual, in-office consultations? Should instant messaging and text reference be handled at or away from the desk?
In addition to exploring the above questions, this presentation will examine the evolving nature of reference service and the related challenges, consider the factors that have contributed to changes in service models, and discuss possible models for the future. One such possible model will be piloted at KU Libraries in the fall 2010 semester. Expert faculty and staff will offer specialized, on-demand research and reference assistance in the new “Learning Studio” in Anschutz Library, with referrals to nearby technology, writing, advising, and tutoring services to provide an integrated, student-friendly environment dedicated to innovative learning opportunities and spaces.||