How would you advocate for reference services? Or encourage people to use reference?

I’m a big fan of reference services, though, I realized today, that I hardly use them. Every so often, maybe once or twice a year, I’ll submit a question, but for a person that spends a lot of time trying to answer esoteric questions (where exactly in Olympia did Quemuth die?), I don’t think I use the Timberland Reference services enough.

So, I spent part of my afternoon looking for advocacy material that went along two general themes:

1. Why reference services are important, why from a public policy viewpoint, you should pay for them.

2. Why you should use reference services.

In about an hour, I  came up with nothing. Which means, on Monday I’ll be submitting via email that question to my local online library reference department.

But, between now and then, how would you convince a policy maker to fund reference?

How would you convince a general library patron, an infophile or just anyone that using reference is good for them?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “How would you advocate for reference services? Or encourage people to use reference?

  1. Thad Curtz

    I worked as a reference librarian at Evergreen for a couple of quarters. (Thollege has a rotation system so somebody from the faculty works in the library each quarter while one of the faculty librarians teaches.) I don’t know if it’s typical, but in my experience people either ask the reference librarian right away or don’t ask until they’re completely exhausted and at wits end… I think this is an issue about pretty deep features of peoples’ character, rather like whether or not they ask for directions when they’re driving, and I’m not sure “convincing” people by offering them reasons why it would be a good thing has much to do with it.

    Maybe you could post a neat digital board on the desk, and have an RSS feed, that kept displaying the most recent question Reference had received, and the answer…

  2. I sent you an email which may or may not be helpful.

    I like Thad’s suggestion, and the FAQ board (proactive reference) has been a pretty hot approach lately.

  3. Oh yeah, in terms of promotional materials, there is a lot more over here: http://wiki.questionpoint.org/Promote+Your+Service

    These are the press release templates I’ve provided, for what those are worth: http://wiki.secstate.wa.gov/askwa/doku.php?id=promotion-and-marketing:documentation

  4. kelsey

    People’s reference questions are theoretically supposed to be held with confidence- although this isn’t necessarily easy to accomplish in public libraries in particular, I still think we should strive for confidentiality. I like the proactive FAQ approach, though- this is something that I think we could definitely do better within TRL. I’ve been mulling Emmett’s question over for a couple of days and haven’t come up with a good concrete response. However, I’m home sick today, so I have some time to think. Off the top of my head, I consider reference questions to be conversations- often, the patron doesn’t really know what they are asking for, and the librarian can provide them with some options that they perhaps hadn’t considered. Reference questions are also teaching moments- for just one example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people who have asked for auto repair manuals get very excited when we show them that they can access the auto repair database and print from it outside of the library. For some of these people, they won’t ever find out about the variety of services that are available to them unless they ask library staff a question.

  5. Kelsie Raddas

    I’d like to answer this question, but I first want to make sure that I’m understanding it correctly. Are you asking what is valuable about the people who work in reference and then utilize the variety of reference resources we have at our disposal to assist patrons? Or, are you asking why those resources themselves (databases, reference books, etc.) are valuable?

    -Kelsie

    • @Kelsie

      What I’m looking for is the “elevator speech” on reference. What would you tell someone unfamiliar with reference how it benefits the community?

      I’m looking for marketing materials, anything that might have a message that can be used.

  6. Emmett, I think about this a lot since it’s my job. I haven’t found the magic bullet yet, if one exists, but my most recent line of thought is that any promotion of reference should focus on outcomes, e.g. not saying “we have information about” but saying “We will help you: fix your car, get an A on your research paper, get into college, succeed in opening a business.”

    I don’t know the best way to do this, or if it’s the right approach, but it’s where my head had been lately.

  7. Kelsie Raddas

    I agree with Ahniwa, we really have to sell ourselves on outcomes. There are really *so* many of them that I can’t list them all here. I will get a word doc together and email it to you. Another thing to think about are the service stories that are put out even month. I think that a lot of those provide great real-life examples of the things we do that benefit our patrons and communities.

  8. kelsey

    Interesting convo about this subject here…
    http://www.lrs.org/blog/viewitem.php?post=270

  9. Pingback: Reference walking the walk (response to talking points) « supports an active, informed community

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