RLI 282 Evolving Models of Reference Staffing at the University of Kansas Libraries 22 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 advanced instruction, and staff training for desk services. In addition, librarians would be “on call” to assist desk staff with complex research questions. It should be noted that most of the students hired to work in the peer and tier structure were undergraduates, not graduate students. At this juncture, since librarians were working fewer hours at the reference desks, overtures were made to paraprofessional staff from other areas of the libraries—interlibrary loan, cataloging, and other library branches—to consider volunteering to perform reference desk service to augment other reference paraprofessional staff still performing this work. Many staff responded to that call and their presence helped maintain the reference desk schedule to meet user demand. Training was largely handled by librarians who provided overviews of their subject areas, and focused most especially on databases and other resources to answer questions that were posed at the desks. The volunteer paraprofessionals were trained in a variety of subject areas and became important service providers at the reference desks. In 2005, reference services were reorganized again by the library administration in an effort to become a more user-centered library and the merged reference department was entirely dissolved. The peer and tier reference model was retained, along with the service of the staff volunteers. Librarians, for their part, became part of discipline-based Subject Councils. Reference activities were overseen at that time by a new position called the “head of outreach.” In addition, circulation and reference services were combined behind one central service desk in Anschutz and Watson Libraries, and student IT workers were assigned to work at the combined service desk to handle increasing amounts of technical-related questions. Feedback from Faculty and Students It can be seen, then, that between 2002 and 2005, the reference model at KU Libraries had changed from a traditional one, to one in a near constant state of evolution. These changes, despite the intentions behind them, ultimately proved not to meet the information needs of library users who expressed their concerns about service quality via a LibQUAL+® survey administered in 2006. As it turned out, faculty in particular desired the librarians to return to the reference desks to provide the specialized level of research assistance they and their students were so sorely missing. Comments by faculty were noteworthy in their support of a return to a more “traditional” reference model where staff, as opposed to students, served as the first point of contact at the public service desks. The 2006 LibQUAL+® survey also coincided with a nearly complete turnover in library administration and the arrival of a new dean of libraries. Thus, in January 2007, under the direction of a new administration and a new reference coordinator, the peer and tier model was abandoned and KU librarians returned to staffing the desks in Anschutz and Watson Libraries. While undergraduate students no longer played a role at the reference desk, the reference volunteer staff was most definitely retained. In fact, a more formalized research specialists program was initiated that summer, based on the volunteers from other library units who had already been a part of the service since 2004. New recruits for the research specialists program were solicited as well. In addition, the previous practice of hiring graduate student assistants to work over the evening and weekend hours was resumed. Undergraduate student workers previously employed for reference services were refocused to serve the circulation department.
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