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Reference, Instruction, and Outreach (RIO)

Guide to provide a forum to learn and share ideas about the various aspects of library reference, instruction, and outreach.

Meeting Overview

We had seven attendees at our meeting on Thursday, October 12 led by Courtney Seymour and Lindsay Bush of Union College.  Although the meeting was a continuation of our September discussion on reference scheduling, the discussion branched off to include other aspects of reference services.

The group discussed reference desk furniture and the location of reference services.   Union College is changing their current reference configuration and plan to purchase new furniture.   Their plan is to purchase bar stool type seats and tables that flip up.  Traci Tosh noted that at Albany Medical College there is a single desk providing circulation and technology support services.  AMC does not have a reference desk but instead the librarians provide on-call reference.  Staff will phone the on-call librarian who comes to the circulation desk and usually bring the patron to a public workstation to provide reference assistance.   

Lucas Petruzzini from Mildred Elley suggested that the reference furniture accessible to students and private enough to facilitate the reference interview. Kate Moss from the College of Saint Rose emphasized the importance of providing in-person reference services to students.  The librarians staff the reference desk whenever the library is open and their reference configuration provides the option to provide face-to-face interaction at the desk or to bring the patron around the desk to sit for a lengthier interaction.

There was also a quick discussion on reference statistics and the group discussed products such as Springshare’s LibAnalytics and Gimlet.  The group agreed that all library staff should be consistent, if the statistics are to be useful.   We will continue the discussion on reference statistics at our March meeting.

Other topics discussed included technology support at the reference or circulation desk.  The library staff at AMC Library that work at the circulation desk have technological experience and receive training two times a month to stay up to date with technology developments in the library.    An idea for a future RIO meeting is IT/Library collaborations.  

Then the topic of using student peer consultants at the reference desk was discussed, as well.  Union College has a new program employing students from their scholar program as peer consultants.  They noted that training is important for the program to be successful and the group agreed that the use of peer consultants does not eliminate the need for librarians, but actually increases questions for librarians.   Students are more comfortable asking other students reference questions and it often leads to complex questions that the peer consultant refers to a librarian.

We ended the meeting with a discussion of reference scheduling and the group offered suggestions for Mildred Elley’s library staffing schedule.

Our next meeting is Thursday, December 14 at 11am .   Johanna MacKay from Skidmore College will lead a discussion on outreach and marketing.

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