ALA Update #5
The last ALA meeting I would like to share with you was titled “What is the Future of Face-to-Face Reference?” One speaker talked about using something similar to Second Life to create a virtual world in which students, via their avatars, can get reference and other library services at Appalachian State University. Another presenter gave details about their failed experiment to use video cams to provide reference service within their library building at Ohio University. The third speaker from the University of California, Merced, had the presentation that was most relevant in considering the issues posed by the title of the program. UC Merced is a very new school (graduate students in 2004 and undergraduates in 2005). From the beginning, their library has had no reference desk, just a “one-stop shop” service desk staffed by student assistants. The reference librarians interact with students “non-traditionally.”
Their library values
• An environment in which in-person reference and instruction are the exception rather than the rule
• Librarians as managers who work on broad solutions
• Providing services that reflect their current information and technology environment and the diversity of their students.
UC Merced’s approach to reference includes:
• Drop-in reference and appointments (RBA)
• Just-in-time service instead of just-in-case service (thus no reference desk)
• Using student assistants for front line service
• Chat reference via a consortial model (like Loyola)
• Experimentation, e.g. using text messaging to answer questions
• Partnering with other student-centered services on campus.
Like many libraries, they have found that promoting services (of any type) can be a challenge. They did a fairly successful series of posters that were eye-catching and informative (one example is on their website). As their library doesn’t have much in the way of a collection yet (but many online resources), they are seeking to answer the question of how to humanize a highly-electronic environment.
Check out their website (http://ucmercedlibrary.info/) which also has the Next-Generation Catalog (WorldCat Local) being piloted by the University of California system.