Bronwyn's Library Blog

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Reference Question

When I studied the intricacies of "The Reference Question" I think the fact that it would be face to face was taken for granted. We may have occasionally glanced at the fact that the telephone might be involved, but with little seriousness. And now we are looking at homework help and the best way to deliver it. It would make sense to offer it through the medium that the client is most familiar with, or impressed by. As Sarah Houghton wrote "I believe school libraries and the students they serve have the most to gain from real-time online reference. The users, in this case students, are generally very comfortable with computers and with chat technology. In fact, many of them would rather chat online with a teacher or librarian than ask for help in person. I have seen students in the public library chatting away on an online reference service, while there is a real-life librarian sitting not twenty feet away at the reference desk. Clearly “online” is a preferred medium, at least for some students."

And those are generally the ones we are trying to win over. We can choose between Instant messaging or chat, and Sarah looks at the value of each. Aaron
Schmidt and Michael Stephens have looked at the same subject from a broader perspective.

Instant and convenient is what these patrons want, and we can get close.
But in a school setting, and possibly even tertiary institutions, one of the aims for a librarian during the reference question is to teach the student how to use the library, or the internet. Modelling and direct instruction are often used. Are we losing that?


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