Cover image for Introduction to reference work in the digital age
Introduction to reference work in the digital age
Janes, Joseph.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, [2003]

Physical Description:
xviii, 213 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


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Z711 .J36 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For many librarians, the meaning of the word reference is changing so rapidly in this Information Age that the subject has become unsettling. With so much questionable information out there, and so many avenues to it, who will point the public to the information truly worth having? How are the approaches to and principles of reference work changing from past to present and future? How do librarians take hold of the reins? Joseph Janes, founder of the Internet Public Library, offers this practical guide. The text is a mix of Janes's provocative arguments and hands-on advice to answer questions such as: what is the optimal mix of desk/phone/e-mail/chat? What kind of resource for what kind of user? What software for what purpose? What values to hold on to and what habits to break? Janes seeks to identify user needs and choose the best reference approaches for seeing that those needs are met. The work features salient considerations, pointers and encouragement.

Author Notes

Joseph Janes is Associate Professor and Chair of Library and Information Science at the Information School of the University of Washington and Founding Director of the Internet Public Library.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Chapter 1 Reference, Digital and Otherwisep. 1
What Is Reference?p. 1
Reference According to RUSAp. 2
Reference According to Katz, Bopp, and Smithp. 4
Why Is It Called "Reference" Anyway?p. 5
A Brief History of Referencep. 6
The Nineteenth Centuryp. 6
The Twentieth Centuryp. 11
The Presentp. 15
The Futurep. 17
Why Libraries Offer Reference Servicesp. 20
The Values behind Reference Workp. 23
Digital Referencep. 27
Defining Digital Referencep. 29
That Which We Call "Reference" Is at a Crucial Turning Pointp. 30
Questions for Reviewp. 32
Endnotesp. 34
Referencesp. 35
Chapter 2 Understanding Users, Communities, and Their Needsp. 37
Planning for Reference Services in a Digital Agep. 40
Serving the New 24/7 Userp. 45
The Changing Role of the Reference Interviewp. 47
The Synchronous Reference Interviewp. 48
The Asynchronous Reference Interviewp. 49
Today's Reference "Noninterview"p. 51
Asynchronous Reference Service Modelsp. 54
E-mail and Web Formsp. 55
Asking Whyp. 61
Limitations of Web Formsp. 62
Design Considerations for Web-Based Formsp. 64
Asynchronous Interactivityp. 66
Questions for Reviewp. 68
Endnotesp. 70
Referencesp. 71
Chapter 3 Responding to Information Needsp. 73
Mediation: What We Do Bestp. 74
Conducting the Searchp. 76
Digital Reference Process Issuesp. 80
Selecting the Right Resourcesp. 81
Choosing the Right Interfacesp. 82
Recognizing the "Good Enough" Responsep. 83
Utilizing Print Resourcesp. 84
Respecting Intellectual Property and Copyrightp. 84
Guidelines and Policies for Asynchronous Reference Servicesp. 85
Guideline 1 What to Do before Trying to Answer a Questionp. 85
Guideline 2 When to Give Upp. 87
Guideline 3 Mandatory Response Componentsp. 88
Guideline 4 Transcript Recordsp. 92
Guideline 5 User Privacy Policiesp. 93
Guideline 6 Closurep. 95
Asynchronous Guideline Checklistp. 96
Real-Life Questions and Responsesp. 97
Idiom Searchp. 97
Franklin's Passed Gasp. 98
History Videos for Kidsp. 99
Guidelines for Synchronous Referencep. 101
Transcript Excerpt from Synchronous Referencep. 103
Professional Collaborations for Providing Reference Servicep. 104
Stumpers-Lp. 105
Do Reference Collaborations Go Against the Grain?p. 105
Ask-an-Expert Servicesp. 107
Answering In-House Questions Digitallyp. 108
Breaking Boundaries of Time and Spacep. 109
Questions for Reviewp. 110
Endnotesp. 111
Referencesp. 111
Chapter 4 Technologyp. 113
Technological Options for Providing Reference Servicesp. 115
E-mailp. 115
Web Formsp. 117
Chat and Instant Messagingp. 117
Videoconferencingp. 119
Call-Center-Based Softwarep. 120
What Do Reference Librarians Really Want Technology to Do?p. 122
Practical Issues Raised by the New Technologiesp. 123
Infrastructurep. 123
Collaborative Service Standardsp. 124
Service Designp. 125
Glitchesp. 131
User Authenticationp. 131
Deeper Issues Raised by the New Technologiesp. 134
Profiling Usersp. 134
Taking the Opportunity to Be Innovatorsp. 135
Encountering a New Generation of Questionsp. 136
24/7 Expectationsp. 136
Matching Services with Expectationsp. 137
Questions for Reviewp. 138
Chapter 5 The Evolution of Practice and the Staff of the Futurep. 139
The Challenge of Serving the Evaporating Patronp. 139
Managing Internet-Based Referencep. 140
Restructuring Resource Utilizationp. 141
Fitting Print into the Picturep. 143
FAQ ASAP?p. 144
Matching the Question with the Best Library to Answer Itp. 145
Using Experts as Resourcesp. 146
The Morphing Reference Interviewp. 147
Bringing Dead Time Back to Lifep. 150
The Time-Lag Dragp. 151
Staff Development in Times of Constant Changep. 154
Training for Tomorrowp. 154
Turning Existing Skills into Online Skillsp. 157
A Call for Criteria?p. 157
Successful Staffing Modelsp. 158
Opportunities for Innovationp. 159
Matching the Best Librarian with the Right Referencep. 160
Questions for Reviewp. 163
Endnotesp. 164
Referencesp. 164
Chapter 6 Making It Work: Creating and Institutionalizing a Servicep. 165
Planning to Plan Means Having a Visionp. 166
First, Fit the Missionp. 166
Second, Achieve Buy-In from Staff and Administratorsp. 167
A Ten-Step Process for Planning a Reference Servicep. 169
Step 1 Analyze the Community and Its Information Needsp. 169
Step 2 Describe the Overall Nature of the Servicep. 170
Step 3 Predict the Volume of Trafficp. 171
Step 4 Describe the Service Pointsp. 172
Step 5 Determine Staffing and Training Needsp. 175
Step 6 Determine Resource Needsp. 175
Step 7 Develop a Marketing Planp. 177
Step 8 Determine How the Service Will Be Evaluatedp. 178
Step 9 Explore Relevant Policy Issuesp. 181
Step 10 Develop an Implementation Schedulep. 184
Plan for Successp. 185
Questions for Reviewp. 186
Referencesp. 186
Chapter 7 Syncopep. 189
Play to Our Professional Strengthsp. 189
Begin by Starting Overp. 195
Final Thoughts: "All These Things and More"p. 198
Question for Reviewp. 199
Endnotesp. 199
Referencesp. 200
Indexp. 201
About the Authorp. 213