Reference Desk Staffing Trends

Julie Banks, Carl Pracht

Abstract


Because of the current changes in reference desk activity—e.g., a decreased number of questions being asked at the reference desk and a focus on electronic resources along with the Internet—it is reasonable to consider whether reference desk staffing, especially in the use of personnel without an ALA-accredited MLS, has been affected. The investigators have observed these changes at their mid-sized university library and wondered if similar trends were occurring elsewhere. To answer this, they developed a twenty-question survey and, after a pilot study, sent it by e-mail to a random sample of 191 academic librarians in the United States who work in universities that enroll between five thousand and fifteen thousand students. This paper reports the findings to the survey questions. For example, 60 percent of the 101 returned surveys indicate that the number of reference desk staff has remained the same in the last three years despite 44 percent acknowledging a drop in the number of reference questions asked at their institutions; 62 percent use non-degreed personnel at the reference desk, and a large number of librarians do not know how important reference librarians will be in the next twenty years.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.48n1.54

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