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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 nine attendees to our meeting Thursday, Sept. 14th. Our topic of discussion was reference desk scheduling, led by Courtney Seymour and Lindsay Bush of Union College. They informed the group that Union College’s library had to cut its reference desk hours and use staff from other library departments to cover reference desk hours. The recruitment and training of students for desk coverage was discussed. Albany College of Pharmacy has on-call reference hours where staff will send a chat to the reference staff when they are needed, but there is no reference service after 4:30. The reference desk at the College of Saint Rose is open all the hours that the library is. University of Albany has 68 hours of reference service available per week - they used to have more library school students available to help, but the number has decreased over the years. University of Albany also uses Desk Tracker for keeping track of the questions given to them. Hudson Valley Community College has their reference service open 77 hours per week, and they use Gimlet to keep their reference stats. There was a discussion on collaboration between writing center service and library (reference) service. It was also discussed that it is hard to mentor and monitor new reference staff since many are now often called upon to work solo. The issue of what range of questions can be delegated to non-librarian staff was discussed, as well as issues between library departments about who  handles printing/printer issues. Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public library uses students to staff their desk for their weekends. Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public and College of Saint Rose use Outlook for scheduling, Union uses Google Calendar, University at Albany uses When to Work, and all require their librarians to find their own shift replacements when they will not be available for their scheduled shifts (barring emergencies).

Since it was agreed the group only scratched the surface of this topic, we will continue this discussion at our next meeting on October 12th.

Related Articles

Ryan, Susan M., Reference Transaction Analysis: The Cost-Effectiveness of Staffing a Traditional Academic Reference Desk, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 34, Issue 5, September 2008, pages 389-399.

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