RLI 282 Evolving Models of Reference Staffing at the University of Kansas Libraries 24 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 Results from the LibQUAL+® survey in 2009 verified that library users saw an improvement in all services, including reference, since the previous 2006 LibQUAL+® survey. The research specialists program has proven to be very successful and the libraries’ service desks could not have been staffed without them during the past few years. These staff members have become an integral part of the reference team and bring a strong set of skills and knowledge from their areas. They enjoy serving the public and using their own specialized skills (developed in cataloging or in interlibrary loan, for example), augmented by training, as a framework with which to answer questions. They also benefit from the diversity of responsibilities they gain as a result of volunteering, meet new staff, and learn about the various ways a complex organization aids faculty and students in the research and learning process. In addition, many of these staff have earned or are working on their graduate library degrees in the interest of furthering their library careers. This experience has aided several in attaining professional appointments at other institutions or libraries around the country. Conclusion The roles of academic librarians will continue to evolve, as will the staffing models to provide reference services. As practitioners and lifelong learners, librarians are accustomed to acquiring new skills on the job and accept that change is constant in their environment. For the last six years, the reference staffing model at KU Libraries has proved to be successful and relatively stable. The contributions of the paraprofessional research specialists have played an important role in achieving that success. As noted in the discussion above, the reference staffing model using paraprofessionals has been retained throughout a period of consistent change at KU Libraries. It has allowed the libraries to tap into expertise of non-reference staff and has aided in the development and implementation of other services, including chat and IM. Further, librarians have been able to use time formerly spent at the reference desk for other professional activities. As users’ modes of inquiry continue to evolve, the KU Libraries’ model will adjust to accommodate them in a changing technological milieu. Several questions have arisen of late within the KU environment that will require further attention. For example, is it necessary to have librarians with very specialized skills working at a general reference and information desk? Furthermore, is it cost-effective to have librarians provide only in-depth research consultations from their offices, meeting with users who drop in or by appointments? Will online or virtual modes of communication supplant the notion of a physical “service desk” entirely in the near future? The bottom line is that reference services in academic libraries and at the University of Kansas Libraries will continue to evolve, but will only remain vital as long as libraries continue to adapt to users’ changing research needs and learning styles. © 2013 Frances Devlin and John Stratton
Previous Page Next Page