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Reference Policy

1. INTRODUCTION

  • 1.1. Purpose of the Reference Service Policy Manual
    • 1.1.1 The purpose of the Reference Service Policy Manual is to state guidelines and departmental policies for providing reference service in order to insure a uniform standard of service of the highest possible quality consistent with available materials.
    • 1.1.2. The manual will be used as a source of information for all reference librarians regarding any departmental policy. It will also be used as a training tool for orienting new members of the department to the rules of service delivery in the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library.
    • 1.1.3. The manual is available to any library patron if he/she has a question concerning the service policy of the department.
    • 1.1.4 Revisions of the manual will be made by consensus of the Department whenever it is deemed necessary.
  • 1.2. Goals of Reference Service
    • 1.2.1 The two major goals of the Reference Department are to: (a) facilitate access to library collections and to the informational content of those collections through direct personal service to the Library's patrons; and (b) support the College's instructional program through providing formal and informal library and bibliographic instruction.
    • 1.2.2 As a general rule, because of the size of the Library's clientele and the large number of highly specialized (and changing) interests among them, assistance to patrons, apart from short answer inquiries, must ordinarily take the form of providing guidance in the pursuit of information rather than providing the information itself. The individual librarian must exercise his/her judgment in determining the application of this policy in specific situations. The needs of the patron, the amount of time available, and the knowledge upon which the librarian can draw must be the determining factors, rather than favoritism to any one patron or group.
  • 1.3. Ethics of Reference Service
    • 1.3.1 The needs of library patrons must always be taken seriously and treated with the utmost respect. Under no circumstances should there be any discussion of an individual or a group of patrons, or of any transactions between patron and reference librarian, outside of a professional content.

2. LIBRARY CLIENTELE

  • 2.1. No distinction will be made between levels of college-affiliated patrons. An undergraduate student is entitled to the same amount of service as a graduate student, faculty member, or administrator.
  • 2.2. No discrimination is made between college and non-college patrons when giving routine reference service. In the case of time-consuming inquiries or special services, the question of the patron's affiliation may arise and some distinctions may have to be made. Guidelines for making these distinctions are given below. In applying the guidelines the reference librarian must use his/her own judgment; however, Canisius patrons and Library work take priority over any requests from non-affiliated patrons.
  • 2.3. Guidelines for Providing Special Services
    • 2.3.1. Time-consuming Inquiries: As a general rule, if a library patron not affiliated with the College has access to a library intended to serve his/her needs which is adequate for his/her purpose, the patron should be referred to that library for assistance. In cases where the Bouwhuis Library has special materials in staff or materials and the needs of the patron seem to warrant it, assistance beyond the routine may be given.
    • 2.3.2. Orientation Tours: Requests for library orientation tours will be honored if staff and time are available. Such requests should be referred to the Coordinator of Bibliographic Instruction for a decision as to whether a tour or a bibliographic instruction session would be more appropriate for the group or class (See Section 6, Bibliographic Instruction).
    • 2.3.3. Use of Computer Equipment: Publicly available computers in the Reference Department are intended to be used for searching cd-rom databases and the World Wide Web, not for applications such as word processing. This service is subject to the following limits:
      • 30 minute time limit per session
      • Printing limited to 10 sheets per session
      • Canisius students, faculty and staff have priority
      • No use by children without parents present
      • Exceptions to the above may be made rarely, and only at the discretion of the librarian on duty.

3. SERVICE PRIORITIES

  • 3.1 The Reference Department gives priority to all activities involving direct service to library users. Supporting activities, although essential to maintain the quality of these services, must take a second place. Among direct services, the order of priorities is: (1) Service to the individual patron and (2) library instruction to groups (See Section 6, Bibliographic Instruction).
  • 3.2 Service to Individuals: The following guidelines set the priorities for service to library patrons:
    • 3.2.1. As a general rule, service to library patrons who come to the Reference area takes priority over any other activity. Reference librarians should make a determined effort to schedule appointments, meetings, and supporting activities at times when it is expected that demands for reference service will be light.
    • 3.2.2 In cases where there are two or more library patrons waiting, help should be offered first to the patron who has been waiting longest. If it appears that the answer to the inquiry will take some time, the librarian may deal first with any questions which can be answered immediately, if this is agreeable to the patrons waiting.
    • 3.2.3. Telephone patrons are next in priority after those who come to the Reference Desk for service, but should be afforded all the same courtesies and attention to accuracy. Though these are frequently nonaffiliated patrons, no attempt will be made to establish this fact unless the reference librarian answering the call judges that special services are required to handle the question completely (See Section 2.3, Guidelines for Providing Special Services).
    • 3.2.4. When the immediate needs of patrons in the Reference area have been satisfied, next priority should be given to inquiries not answered when they were taken while on desk or telephone duty. Such questions should be dealt with if possible by the person who accepted them. If necessary, these questions may be handled by the next librarian on duty.
    • 3.2.5. Questions received by e-mail are retrieved at least once a day and are answered, whenever feasible, within 24 hours.
    • 3.2.6. Questions received by mail are last in order of answer priority. Such inquiries, when not addressed to a specific librarian, will be referred to the Head of the Department for referral or response.

4. DESK SERVICE

  • 4.1 Staffing
    • 4.1.1. A librarian will be on duty in the Department at all hours that the Library is open. The day staff, full-time and part-time, rotate desk duty according to the schedule devised by a designated member of the Department. Evening/weekend hours and skeleton staff days (e.g., holidays) are staffed by part-time librarians.
    • 4.1.2. During slack periods at the desk, staff should work on other assignments, examine new reference materials, read professional literature, etc., as long as doing so does not interfere with the provision of desk service. Staff must be careful not to become so engrossed in other work that they fail to see patrons in need of assistance in the reference area or at the catalog terminals.
    • 4.1.3. Should it ever be necessary to leave the Reference Desk unattended for any length of time, the librarian on duty should ask another librarian to cover Reference during his/her absence.
  • 4.2 Question Negotiation
    • 4.2.1 Providing the highest possible quality of personal assistance to library patrons at the Reference Desk is the primary responsibility of any librarian assigned to work in Reference. The nature and extent of responsibilities of librarians on desk duty are to:
    • 4.2.1.1. Answer all reference questions to completion whenever possible and feasible.
    • 4.2.1.2. Provide instruction in the use of any necessary reference materials, book or nonbook.
    • 4.2.1.3. Provide instruction in the use of any equipment provided for patron use, including CD-ROMs and OPAC terminals.
    • 4.2.1.4. Give referral to other librarians or institutions when necessary (See Section 4.2.9).
    • 4.2.1.5. Answer telephone inquiries as completely as possible.
    • 4.2.2. It is expected that judgment will be exercised in determining which questions can be handled to completion by the librarian and which ones are best answered by providing guidance in selecting sources to consult. In the first category are directions, general questions concerning library policies and services, information on library holdings, and reference questions involving specific facts easily determined from standard sources.
    • 4.2.3. In a second category are questions which require much longer, more detailed answers, for example, questions concerning search strategy for information in a specific field involving several forms of material, or questions which will require searching through a number of specialized sources which are located some distance away from the Reference Desk. When these more complicated, time-consuming questions arise at the Desk a reference librarian may: (1) alert another librarian that the Desk needs to be covered while the librarian takes over the question, or (2) inform the patron courteously that the request will probably take some time to answer fully and ask him/her to return to the Desk later for an answer or for help in locating an answer. The reference librarian is expected to use his/her own judgment in determining the most appropriate response and also to be considerate of the patron and of any colleague who may be asked for assistance.
    • 4.2.4. One of the chief responsibilities of reference librarians is instruction in the use of the public catalog. The librarian on desk duty should always accompany the patron when answering a question concerning catalog use. Reference librarians should offer assistance politely to any patron who appears to be having difficulty with the catalog.
    • 4.2.5. In responding to reference queries, the reference librarian should never give information without fully verifying the answer in an appropriate source or sources. Answers to questions should be based on data or other material in standard reference sources whenever possible. The printed information should be shown to the patron or, in the case of a telephone inquiry, the source of the information should be cited. It is not department policy to vouch for the accuracy of a particular answer or source, although the librarian should be prepared to give some indication of its reliability. If the patron cannot or will not wait for a verified answer or is satisfied with a less than complete search for information, the librarian should indicate in his/her answer the possibility that a more through search would locate the material wanted.
    • 4.2.6. The amount of service that can be given at any particular time will vary, depending on such factors as how many patrons are waiting for service at the desk and how many other reference librarians are available to help. While an individual librarian may have to exercise judgment in deciding how much help to give a patron, it is important at all times that an effort be made to provide service consonant with departmental standards (See Section 4.2.1.).
    • 4.2.7. Challenging questions or assignments are sometimes posed by instructors as part of take-home examinations, or as "puzzles" or scavenger hunts, intended to encourage students to learn how to use library materials. The effect is usually the opposite, and can result in frustrating situations for student and librarian requiring effort and diplomacy for their resolution. Generally, the initial approach of the librarian should be the same as it would be to any other question: i.e., to direct the patron to probable sources of information, encouraging return if those sources are unsatisfactory. However, when a group is involved in pursuit of the same information, it becomes difficult to provide individual assistance or even instruction in search strategy. Reference staff must then judge the relative importance or propriety of the question, either by asking the student or by contacting the instructor, and act accordingly to avoid time-consuming repetition of effort. The less the purpose of the question has to do with education or research, the readier the reference staff should be to direct patrons immediately to sources known to contain the answer, or even to provide the answer. Library staff must not be expected to assume responsibility for the correctness of the solutions found in these cases. Cross-verifying answers is not a part of normal service, except in obvious cases of contradictory information. The interpretation of the question and acceptability of the response must remain the responsibility of the patron.
    • 4.2.8. Reference staff on desk duty must be constantly aware of how approachable they appear to library patrons who are in need of assistance. Being approachable is a first step in encouraging patrons to seek assistance at the Desk. Patrons, especially students, need to be educated to the fact that individual assistance is the primary responsibility of staff on desk duty, that reference librarians are interested in the problems that face library patrons, and that they are willing to help. Since the attitude and behavior of staff on duty create the image of the Reference Department, staff should strive to make that image a positive one.
    • 4.2.9. When the librarian fielding a question has been unable to answer it after having consulted known sources, or has reason to believe that the question cannot be answered by sources in the Bouwhuis Library, the patron should be referred to another source of information if possible.
    • 4.2.9.1. The librarian should first ask colleagues for advice or assistance, explaining the problem and what sources have already been consulted. These explanations should be made in person if at all possible, but written messages are appropriate if no one else is available. Reference librarians should keep in mind the subject specialties of colleagues in other Library departments and call them whenever necessary.
    • 4.2.9.2. Questions are sometimes received in the Library which can best be answered by another College department. If so, the librarian should notify that department of the question and refer the patron to it for an answer.
    • 4.2.9.3. If it appears that no one at Canisius has the answer to the question, the patron should be referred to another library in the area.
  • 4.3. Reference Aids
    • 4.3.1. The desk clipboard and desk notebook are provided as information sources for librarians working the Reference Desk. Clipboard information usually consists of a copy of a class assignment or a course syllabus outlining assignments for the semester for a particular class. Notebook messages record information and special short-term instructions needed by staff on desk duty. Examples of such messages are: (1) notes concerning procedures for answering a difficult question being asked frequently at the desk, or (2) notes concerning material placed on the reference hold shelf for use by patrons returning later in the day. The reference notebook is especially intended as a communication vehicle between day and evening staff, but may be used for any messages regarding desk service.
    • 4.3.2. Reference files are a collection of materials which serve special informational needs of reference staff on desk duty. Examples of these materials are: Brochures describing area library facilities, guides to the use of selected databases, and bibliographies on special topics. Generally, because of the format or ephemeral nature of these materials, they are not suitable for cataloging or retaining on the shelves, or for circulation out of house.
    • 4.3.3. A difficult queries file is maintained by Reference to inform anyone working the desk of locations of answers to particularly hard or infrequently asked questions. These queries are usually not of the class assignment variety and have either unique answers or answers which are found in unique sources.
  • 4.4. Lending Reference Materials
    • 4.4.1. Pamphlet file materials may circulate for one week to College-affiliated patrons with validated i.d.. These charges are not renewable.
    • 4.4.2. In general, reference materials do not circulate outside the Library. However, some of these materials are in less demand than others, or contain enough substantive information on a given topic that use out-of-house may be warranted. Patrons must present validated College i.d. for this service. The reference librarian must judge whether or not such a charge-out would seriously inconvenience other Library patrons. If there is any doubt, the request should be referred to the Head of the Department.
  • 4.5 Exhibits
    • 4.5.1. The Reference Department is responsible for the timeliness, appropriateness, and appearance of displays in the Library's exhibit cases. Some exhibits, such as the Current Faculty Publications display, may be considered permanent. Others are scheduled by the librarian in charge of displays. In order to insure that the cases are used most effectively, a schedule has been established which allows all library departments a share in access to the cases. Departments are notified ahead of time. The same librarian handles requests for materials placed in the bulletin boards.
  • 4.6. Problems
    • 4.6.1. Complaints concerning reference service policies or functions of the Department should always be referred to the Head of the Department.
    • 4.6.2. If a patron causes a disturbance in the reference area, the reference librarian on duty should ask the patron to cease in consideration of others. If he/she continues, they should be asked to leave. If the patron becomes unruly or abusive, Security should be notified immediately. Any patron exhibiting suspicious behavior should be reported to Security without delay. Whenever Security is called, the Library Director should be notified.

5. LIBRARY INSTRUCTION SERVICES

  • 5.1. At the freshman level, most students are not aware of locations or services available to them in the Library. Initial library instruction during the first year is a valuable asset to the student which will ease the burden of research at a later date. The Bouwhuis Library seeks to play an active role in the academic process by providing and encouraging the use of library instruction. Introductory lectures, individualized student instruction, and advanced subject specialty classes in various disciplines are presently available to faculty members and their students.
  • 5.2. Completion of one or more sections of library instruction in one or more disciplines should enable the student to think carefully about his/her information needs and provide basic skills necessary for requesting and finding information for curricular or personal purposes, by:
    • 5.2.1. making the student feel physically and emotionally comfortable in the Library,
    • 5.2.2. giving the student a logical map to follow in developing a search strategy,
    • 5.2.3. making the student aware of the reference librarian as a main source of information access and a partner, with the academic faculty, in his/her endeavor,
    • 5.2.4. making the student aware of the diversity, volume, and complexity of retrieving information, and how such characteristics affect information needs,
    • 5.2.5. teaching the student how to locate information regardless of format (i.e., hard copy, software, etc.), and
    • 5.2.6. informing the student of the differences between types of libraries (e.g., public, academic, etc.) and what kinds of materials each institution is likely to provide.
  • 5.3. As a result of library instruction, the Reference Department seeks to teach the following skills:
    • 5.3.1. Students should know the physical layout of the Library, particularly the location and function of the various service departments (Circulation, Periodicals, Reference).
    • 5.3.2. Students, especially freshmen, should recognize that it is always appropriate to ask for help in finding material.
    • 5.3.3. Students should understand the purposes and uses of a library reference collection and when to consult its sources.
    • 5.3.4. Students should be able to use the catalog to its full potential. They should be able to access the catalog through title, author, subject and keyword approaches, and should know how to use subject tracings.
    • 5.3.5. Students should know how to locate books in the Library collections by call numbers and location designators.
    • 5.3.6. Students should know how to use periodical indexes and how to determine whether or not the Bouwhuis Library owns the periodicals they need.
    • 5.3.7. Students should know how and when to use local CD-ROM databases, online database searching, and other electronic sources (e.g., CanInfo, CARL, other Internet sources).
    • 5.3.8. Students should know how to locate articles in locally held periodicals, whether in current issues, bound volumes, microform, or full-text databases.
    • 5.3.9. Students should be able to use the Western New York Union Catalog, BISON, Sherlock, etc., to locate materials the Library does not own.
    • 5.3.10. If the Library does not own needed materials, students should know how interlibrary loan works.
  • 5.4. The program will be administered by the Coordinator of Bibliographic Instruction (a member of the Reference Department), whose major duties include: meeting with faculty to schedule instructional classes, collecting and organizing statistics, preparing an annual report on orientation/instructional activities, and scheduling the division of teaching responsibilities among all the reference librarians.
  • 5.5. The Reference Department of the Library will offer bibliographic instruction independent of any academic department or other group.

6. REFERENCE COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT (see relevant sections of Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library Collection Development Policy)

7. MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION OF REFERENCE SERVICES

  • 7.1 The Reference Department keeps the following statistical measurements:
    • 7.1.1 Reference questions, by type of question (e.g., directional, catalog query, reference, etc.) and by subject category. Statistics compiled monthly, quarterly, and annually.
    • 7.1.2. Circulation, inhouse or out-of-house, of reference materials, system generated statistics and by sign-out cards. Statistics compiled annually.
    • 7.1.3. In-house use of reference materials, by shelving statistics and sign-in sheets. Statistics compiled annually.
    • 7.1.4. Bibliographic instruction classes conducted by class level (Academic Development, COPE, General Studies, upper division, and graduate) and by number of students reached. Statistics compiled semiannually and annually.
    • 7.1.5. Summary of acquisitions for uncataloged materials -- annual reports, maps, and pamphlets. Number added and withdrawn for each category compiled annually
    • 7.1.6. Exhibits
    • 7.1.7. Instructional handouts, by type, subject, and title.
  • 7.2. The Reference Department evaluates the following areas:
    • 7.2.1. Student attitudes and reactions to bibliographic instruction classes. (Form now in progress).
    • 8.2.2. Reference collection strengths and weaknesses, using standard bibliographical tools, and/or those which apply specifically to smaller or more specialized collections.

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