Competency I

Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information

Introduction

The Warsaw Community Public Library (2016) says it well when describing information services for their patrons: “In brief, we answer all of your questions [and] help you with whatever you need.” Information services can be as narrow or as broad a scope as any library or library department deems appropriate for their resources and customers. Many public libraries offer basic reference services in the form of answering brief questions at a reference desk, especially as it pertains to materials available in or through the library. For more involved research, some libraries may provide in-depth appointments to assist with information seeking and synthesizing.

Information service is not limited to in-person interactions. Cassell and Hiremath (2013, p. 5) point out that “…reference transactions can take place in person, on the telephone, or virtually via e-mail, chat reference, instant messaging, texting, Twitter, or video conferencing.” Certainly as more communication technologies become available to mainstream consumers, libraries will find ways to integrate it into their information service plans. Through these methods, librarians may provide a variety of information services.

Aside from answering reference questions, which is arguably the most popular form of information service, librarians may also offer readers’ advisory. In doing so, librarians will give book recommendations based on the request. Some patrons may simply ask for a “good book,” while others may have a particular genre in mind. Still others may have very specific content in mind, and request items that tell stories about a romantic adventure set in 1920s Amish Country with supernatural elements, for example.

Beyond reference and readers’ advisory is information literacy. Cassell and Hiremath (2103, p. 8) describes information literacy in the information service context as, “…demonstrating how, when, and why to use various reference sources in an integrated way that will capture the user’s attention at the teachable moment.” Librarians may work toward information literacy in a variety of ways, both active and passive. In some instances, librarians may have the ability to spontaneously apply information literacy during another teaching moment, such as explaining to a patron how to access the library’s educational database resources. In this case, a librarian might also point out how to select credible sources. A more formal, yet still active, approach to information literacy is a program on the topic. This can be more challenging as it is unlikely many patrons will jump at the chance to attend an event called, “Finding Credible Resources.” However, something titled “Is Kim Kardashian Really Getting Divorced?: Assessing Resource Credibility” may gain more traction. Ultimately, the marketing of such a program would largely come down to the community’s “personality,” and librarians should know their community well before attempting such a program. Finally, passive examples of information literacy include book or material displays on the topic or with especially credible resources, electronic or print resource guides for particular topic made available to patrons, or recommended articles on information literacy through the library’s website or social media accounts. All of these options offer the opportunity for patrons to educate themselves on information literacy but require a less active presence on the part of the library staff.

For traditional reference, librarians must appear approachable. Some libraries mitigate this by putting up signs at the reference desk with text that says something to the effect of, “Please interrupt me. Your question is more interesting than my work.” This can make approaching busy-looking librarians easier for patrons who may otherwise feel uncomfortable “interrupting” the staff member at the reference desk. Reference desks in and of themselves are a method to present the availability of staff to help patrons with information services. Having stationary staff in the library enables patrons to locate a librarian when necessary. Some libraries, such as those in the University of Mississippi, also offer roving reference services, in which librarians roam the stacks of the library, often with a Wi-Fi enabled device to aid them in helping customers (University of Mississippi Libraries, 2014). This way, much like in a department store, librarians may ask patrons if they are finding everything they are seeking or simply be nearby and available when a patron needs assistance.

Keeping a list of references resources can be a great help in assisting patrons. Whether this list is electronic or print, it will enable librarians to more easily point out resources to patrons, especially for topics that come up frequently. These lists are sometimes made available to the public as well, which in turn empowers patrons to research independently. In many instances, these kinds of resources might be called pathfinders or subject guides. The Alexandria Public Library (2016), for instance, publishes many subject guides from a wide range of sources such as print material, catalog subject headings, and databases.

Evidence

INFO 210 Activity 5

Activity 5 examines the work of a librarian and a library assistant at a public library during a shadowing experience at a reference desk. Pulling from literature on the subject of reference and information services, I discuss both what was done well by library employees and what might have been done differently best on best practices and research. This two-hour observation period provided not only learning by study, but also the opportunity to practice information services myself as the two employees I shadowed were happy to let me take on some of the questions posed by patrons. As an examination of the real-life use of methods and resources to provide information service, this assignment demonstrates my understanding of Competency I.

 

INFO 210 Activity 3

Activity 3, a pathfinder on resources for the art of letter writing and pen pals, divides several vetted materials into the following categories: History, Memoirs, and Prose; Collections; Ideas and DIY; Resources for Pen Pals; and News. Each of these topics and the resources therein offer enrichment for people passionate about writing letters. With a combination of fiction and nonfiction, the list reaches a wide audience of letter writers, whether they’re looking for philosophical company or ideas on how to decorate an envelope. The accompanying discussion considers the approach to this particular pathfinder, providing insight to the process and decisions made throughout. As a demonstration of the design of a resource for information seekers, this assignment exhibits my understanding of Competency I.

 

Conclusion

As one of the primary services offered by most libraries, information service has a myriad of aspects and approaches. Like all services, the best way to get the most out of information services in a given community is to cater to the community’s needs. Keeping up-to-date on developments in information technology and applying it as appropriate can keep a library relevant in a world that suggests libraries are at death’s door. Information service is a duty libraries have to their communities and its availability to citizens of a community is paramount.

References

Alexandria Public Library. (2016). Subject guides. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1XVluu6

Cassell, K. A. & Hiremath, U. (2013). Reference and information services: An introduction (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Neal-Schhuman.

University of Mississippi Libraries. (2014). Roving reference service. Retrieved from http://www.libraries.olemiss.edu/uml/story/learning/roving-reference-service

Warsaw Community Public Library. (2016). Adult information services. Retrieved from http://www.warsawlibrary.org/99.htm