Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reference is Dead, Long Live Reference

I'm a recovering Reference Librarian. I spent seven years doing reference before being "kicked upstairs" two years ago. Last week our current Head of Adult Services and I got into a conversation about the value of our print Reference collection. She said very nearly nobody uses it anymore. And that includes staff, who is now married to the internet. Only a handful of the thousands of titles ever make it off the shelf. We budget something like $20,000 a year on Reference materials. The trends suggest that money is wasted. So I recommended to our Adult Services supervisor that we should dump the print collection all together and spend that money on online databases with home access. We can count the stats from the database home use as Reference interactions. A bank of computers for the databases would fit nicely into the spot occupied by Reference shelves. I worry this may spread the "digital divide" even wider, but the time is coming when we will need to get even more radical about finding ways to deliver the services our patrons want in the format they want it. More and more that is going to be online. Another of Cindy's sacred cows teeters on the brink.

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director


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