Significantly Different?

Laura Saunders, Mary Jordan


There is a widely held belief in the library profession that public and academic libraries are substantially different from one another, with regard to patron base, collection emphases, and overall service goals. These differences in focus and collection suggest that reference librarians will need a different set of skills and competencies in each setting. As a result, library students are often encouraged to choose a career path and plan a curriculum that focuses on one setting, and professional librarians may encounter resistance when they try to move from one setting after several years of experience in the other. Yet, there is very little research to confirm these popular beliefs that reference services in the two settings are significantly different. Based on a nationwide survey of practicing reference librarians in public and academic libraries, this study explores the extent to which professional competencies and expectations for reference librarians vary between academic and public library settings.

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