Providing Reference Services: A Practical Guide for Librarians. By John Gottfried and Katherine Pennavaria. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017. 166 p. Paper $65.00 (ISBN 978-1-4422-7911-7).

Providing Reference Services is number 32 in the Practical Guides for Libraries series. Beginning with a brief history of library reference service and a discussion of library stereotypes, the authors quickly move on to identifying criteria for building and maintaining a reference collection, as well as key points to consider when providing reference service, with particular emphasis on the reference interview. The authors note the need to incorporate emotional intelligence into reference work. Emotional intelligence is a topic that has recently garnered increasing interest in the business world, and it is good to see it addressed here in the context of libraries and reference services. This guide does not give detailed plans for implementing reference services but instead highlights key points and concerns to consider when developing reference services. The authors’ approach is broadly based, and the key points can be adapted by small public libraries as well large academic institutions. Each chapter ends with a helpful bibliography of sources and additional reading, and the authors also refer to another guide in the series for readers seeking more detailed help; this kind of continuity within the Practical Guides for Libraries series is useful and appreciated.

This guide includes a brief index and could be used by any library staff member, but it will be especially valuable for managers, as it includes numerous tips regarding the planning, training, supervising, and staffing needed for evolving reference services. The importance of communication from the supervisor to staff is emphasized, as is finding the best communication style and method for each employee. The authors also note the importance of development opportunities for staff and the need for timely intervention when personnel issues arise. It is refreshing to see these simple managerial tips incorporated into the development of reference services, along with traditional focus on identifying community needs.

This guide also addresses the need for reference services to be a strong part of library budget planning, as reference services often play a key role in outreach to the community. There is a frank look at the trend toward more collaborative projects and services and a discussion of their impacts and benefits. The authors conclude by pointing out that libraries will need to compete with other services to keep their patrons in the future; this requires a greater focus on networking and outreach to the community. All in all, this guide provides significant food for thought and covers some of the basic concerns libraries should address when developing their reference services.—Laura Graveline, Visual Arts Librarian, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire


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