Topic 5: The Role of Reference Librarian

• Developing the reference collection i.e. selected and acquire them.
• Reference administration- he organizes and administers the reference service.
• He conduct reference interview.
• He performs literature searches for the users.
• He evaluates reference services to enhance the quality of the reference service.
• Record and submit search results.
• Assist users in pursuit of information e.g. guiding them.
• Co-ordinates and manages the reference section.
• Evaluate the effectiveness of reference services.
• Initiate and maintain an interlending programme.
• Promotes and publicizes the library services.
• Provides referral services-linking users to other sources of information elsewhere.
• Provide user education.
• Compiling bibliographies concerning his section.
• He provides selective dissemination of information.
• Compilation of users of profile.

They can be divided into four types:-
(i) Direction –The answers to these types of questions require geographical knowledge from key location e.g. where is the catalogue?
(ii) Ready reference questions e.g. what is the name of the government of Alaska? What is the speed of sound?
NB/ They may be subdivided in many ways like what, when, where.
(iii) Specific search questions.
Where can I get information on sexism, what is the difference between conservative and liberal lines on inflation and unemployment.
(iv) Research type- it is usually identified as that coming from an ………..who is seeking detailed information assist in detailed work e.g……… executives etc.
The main infrastructure components that must be fulfilled in order to run reference service include the following:-
(i) The information services
These are the range of materials in the library collection: books, periodicals, indexes, abstracts and other reference works. E.g. encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs etc. the size and the quality of the collection have a bearing on the quality of the service.
(ii) Human resource
Qualified manpower is required to carry out the range of reference services. Such manpower must know in depth the range reference works in library’s collection and about the information sources of other libraries within the country as well as information systems and services in the region. The reference staff should have a good knowledge of literature work techniques.
(iii) Information technology
The availability in a library of microcomputers with the associated peripherals and the relevant software has enabled information systems to use storage efficiency and contribute or disseminate information faster, more economically and with great benefits to the end user.

In order to improve reference services, the information systems must achieve certain qualities ranging from a wide range of information sources and information type (bibliographic, factual, images etc) access to the wide range of information available, ease of use of the information system through user interface or tutorial assistance, comprehensiveness, relevance and timeliness and reduced cost to both the library and the user.

Evaluation is a process of measuring performance of service or a system and assessing its effectiveness in assessing needs. It can also be referred to as a diagnostic procedures intended to a therapeutic action.

• Helps to determine the work of a systems performance
• It is carried out with an aim of improving the system’s performance
• Helps to obtain the performance figures of a system
• Helps clarify the reasons behind the system’s failures or success
• It is a tool for management and decision making
• Act as a sign of respect to the user community/customers
• It is a mechanism for accessing the levels of achieving the objectives of a system
• It is a tool for justifying the system expansion plus input and output
• Act as a tool for staff appraisal
• Aids in finding ways or procedures of improving the service.

• To develop relevant sources for users
• To develop current collection
• To justify the work of a given source.
• To improve on the services
• To measure the performance of given resources.

A. Material resources/information sources
 Subject coverage one discipline or many
 The adequacy i.e. stock volume can the stock serve users sufficiently
 Currency of the collection- do they provide up to date information
 Relevance – do they meet the users needs
 Subject balance –does the collection cater for all disciplines equally
 Range/form of presentation- the collection should include books, manuscripts non-print materials etc.

B. Human resource/staff
 Adequacy- are the staff adequate to understand the tasks required
 Professional qualifications
 Public relations- courtesy, communication skills.

C. Cost
Amount paid in equipping the system and maintenance and operational costs. Number of users and their satisfaction within a given period.

D. Services
Range/types of services offered e.g. SDI, referral services, bibliographic compilation. Quality of the service- how long does it take to be served after giving the query. i.e. response time, degree of relevance be higher.

E. Access
It is to do with the organization and retrieval system of information centre. The organization system should be simple to understand and use. The system should have adequate retrieval tools.

F. User’s satisfaction
This the extents to which users are satisfied with the services offered by the system.

G. Space
This refers to the space of the equipments.

• Time limit
• Lack of co-operation from respondents
• Lack of skills
• Lack of objectives
• Lack of funds
• Inadequate date collection tools-inaccuracy
• In efficiency of staff to measurable units
• Bias of both parties
• Lack of adequate records to provide secondary data.
NB/ Methods of collecting data include interviews, observations, documentary sources, statistical sampling, online and telephone communications and interview, questionnaires and others.

Revisions Exercise 5.
1. Explain the relevance of reference services/information services in an information center.
2. State the step involved in the reference process and indicate the major considerations during the reference interview.
3. Discuss the role of a reference librarian in a reference interview and state the major personal qualities that he should posses.
4. State the reasons why search strategy is important and indicate the reasons why an interview is important.

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