Sources: Repositioning Reference: New Methods and New Services for a New Age

Repositioning Reference: New Methods and New Services for a New Age. By Laura Saunders, Lillian Rozaklis, and Eileen G. Abels. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015. 157 p. Paper $36 (ISBN: 978-0-8108-9322-1).

Repositioning Reference makes a grand statement in its title, and although it is a concise book, it delivers in providing new methods and new services for this new age. The chapters are well-organized, beginning with a historic overview of how and why reference services developed in libraries. The chapters are well documented with excellent endnotes, and the bibliography is a great resource on its own. The authors outline the reasons why traditional reference services are no longer as popular as they once were and explain what the changes in library patrons’ needs and research behavior means for current reference librarians and the evolution of reference service.

It is notable that the authors singled out ambivalence to change among library staff as one of the major hurdles that must be overcome as reference services and reference librarians evolve to meet the changing needs of researchers. Accordingly, they offer strategies to help managers cultivate a work environment that is receptive to change, an approach that is popular in the business world but not always addressed within library management.

In this book’s discussion of core competencies for reference librarians, many soft skills as well as technical expertise are included. The list could act as a checklist for librarians interested in adding to their own skill set, and it could also help library management determine their staff’s areas of strength as well as areas for potential further development.

The chapter on “Thinking outside the box” provides many ideas to explore and may inspire librarians to think of other avenues for outreach and research assistance, taking advantage of technology and new ways of communicating. For librarians, it can be bitterly disappointing to learn that research shows most students and faculty (especially in the sciences) start and sometimes finish their research with an Internet search, without taking advantage of library resources or librarian assistance. For this reason, repositioning reference and research assistance so that it moves outside the library, and does not wait for the library user to come to the service, is an important message for all libraries to heed, lest we return to the closed medieval archives of the past, with only limited relevance to those few scholars in the know.—Laura Graveline, Visual Arts Librarian, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire


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