RLI 282 21 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 Evolving Models of Reference Staffing at the University of Kansas Libraries Frances Devlin, University of Kansas John Stratton, University of Kansas T he proliferation of digital resources and technologies, coupled with a general decline in reference questions asked in research libraries, have brought new dimensions to librarianship and traditional reference services at ARL libraries. At the University of Kansas (KU) Libraries, reference services have evolved and been reconfigured several times over the past decade. Modifications to the service model have been made in response to changing user behaviors and technologically enhanced access to scholarly resources, and to focus on better utilization of library faculty time. In recent years, for example, librarians have assumed greater responsibilities while facing increased demands on their time, with expanded leadership roles in areas such as open access publishing, copyright consultancy, data services management, and classroom teaching. Given these changes in emphases, KU Libraries’ reference services have evolved to include formerly non-reference staff (i.e., paraprofessionals) who did not normally work in public service areas, but who nonetheless expressed a desire to work at the desk as a way to enhance their own skills. Over time, this staffing model has proven successful and, through a series of changes to the overall reference model, has been retained as an innovative and effective way to expand reference services and tap into expertise offered by library paraprofessionals. Early Changes Prior to 2002, KU Libraries had a traditional reference staffing model in Watson and Anschutz Libraries, which together contain the bulk of the collections for the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Each library had its own reference desk and department, staffed by subject librarians housed in those locations. Due to anticipated budget cuts in 2002, the library administration implemented a pilot project integrating the functional units of reference and access services across the Anschutz and Watson Libraries. Following the departure of the head of Anschutz Library in 2002, it was decided that the position would not be filled. Instead, the library administration merged these separate reference departments, and the new combined unit was led by two co-coordinators. While it took some time for librarians and departmental staff to become used to the new arrangement and to working at both reference desks, eventually all made the transition. It was also during this same period that chat and instant messaging modes of communication were introduced as part of reference services, staffed separately away from the desks by librarians. In 2004, within two years of the merged approach, the library administration introduced another new reference staffing model, which was christened the “peer and tier” model and was based on the Brandeis Reference Model. This new model’s central feature was to place students and paraprofessionals at the Watson and Anschutz reference desks, backed up by librarians in their offices. Librarians, it was presumed, would concentrate on other duties, including outreach to academic departments, basic and
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