Reference Services Policy

Adopted by the Mount Horeb Public Library Board on May 25, 2005

I.Goal Statement and Philosophy of Service
II. The Reference Collection
III. Guidelines and Responsibilities
IV. On-Call Reference Service
V. Direct Contact Reference Service
VI. In-Person Reference Service
VII. Telephone Reference Service
VIII. Electronic Reference Service
IX. Mail (Postal) Reference Service
X. Special Approach Reference Question
XI. Other Public Service Responsibilities


I. Goal Statement and Philosophy of Service


A. The primary goal of reference service is to ensure the optimum access to information resources through interaction with library users as follows:

  1. Provision of personal assistance by library staff.
  2. Provide quality reference service, on an on-call (as needed) basis during quieter times of the day.
  3. Provide Direct Contact Reference Service during peak times: 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m (Fall & Winter), 9:30 – 1:00 p.m. (Summer)
  4. Provision of formal and informal instruction in the use of library resources.
  5. The long-term goal of the Library Board is to provide a full-time librarian with title of “reference librarian” to staff greater portions of this service.

B. Provide access to a wide range of information through print, electronic, and online resources, and the use of interlibrary loan and document delivery networks.

C. The library customer is the most important person in the library. Service provided to customers is not an interruption of work but is rather the purpose of it.

D. Provide quality assistance in the computer lab as stipulated in established in the Computer Use and Gaming Equipment Policy, Section VIII: Staff Assistance Guidelines.

To Top

II. The Reference Collection

A. Reference materials are purchased in order to provide assistance with general, rather than specialized, information needs.

B. Specific criteria for the selection of reference materials are set forth in the library's Collection Development Policy. Special emphasis in this area is placed on the timeliness of the materials. The library regularly purchases revisions of standard materials.

C. Any item catalogued for the reference collection does not circulate. There are no exceptions. The library will purchase circulating copies of certain popular and affordable reference titles.

D. The library offers free access to the Internet from a number of public work stations. The Internet offers access to ideas, information, and commentary from around the world that can be personally, professionally, and culturally enriching. However, not all resources on the Internet are accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Library staff assumes responsibility only for the information provided on its home page. We do not monitor, have no control over, and do not accept responsibility for material from other sources on the Internet.

To Top

III. Guidelines and Responsibilities

A. A reference service user is a library customer of any age or circumstance who chooses to make contact in person, over the phone, or via email, with a library staff member at the reference desk.

B. All inquiries will be handled courteously.

C. Staff members will not make value judgments as to the importance of any question. Questions deemed inappropriate for the reference desk will be referred to the appropriate sources.

D. Reference questions will be responded to in the order received. In the cases of conflicts or time restraints, priority service will be given to in-person requests. Telephone requests will be noted, and calls will be returned as promptly as possible.

E. All answers given by staff shall be verified by legitimate documentation and the sources used shall be noted to customers.

F. Staff are expected to do as much as possible with the available resources and within a reasonable time frame to answer customer requests.

G. If it is not possible to answer the request to the customer's satisfaction with the library's materials, the following actions may be taken:

1. Consider the item for purchase using ASAP guidelines. See section VIII.
2. Use interlibrary loan service (Worldcat).
3. Make phone calls to local sources of information.
4. Refer customers to other resources outside the library.

H. Confidentiality is to be maintained. Customers and their questions will not be discussed beyond a professional context.

I. Questions concerning library policy should be answered by referring to written policy statements. If this does not satisfy the customer, he or she should be referred to the Library Director.

To Top

IV. On-Call Reference Service

A. The goal of this service level is to provide customers with quality reference service while also providing staff the opportunity to utilize non-peak times to work on projects in their personal work spaces.

1. The reference desk will be staffed, utilizing an on-call format, during non-peak times of the day: 1:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m. (Summer), 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Winter).

B. Functions of on-call reference service include the following:

  1. Forwarding reference phone to personal work space.
  2. Altering voicemail message on personal phone to reflect reference service.
  3. Checking email and responding to incoming reference questions at the beginning and end of shift (minimum).
  4. Conducting walk-a-rounds of the main floor including children’s room and computer lab every 1 – 1.5 hours (as per activity on floor warrants).
  5. Extending professional courtesy to colleagues: check in with colleagues whose shifts are ending; make verbal contact with colleague to determine any issues or follow-up reference questions that may need to be addressed by the in-coming reference librarian.
  6. Providing quality service as outlined in sections VI – IX.

To Top

V. Direct Contact Reference Service

A. The goal is to provide customers with quality reference service during peak times of the day when the library receives maximum use.

1. The reference desk will be staffed, utilizing the direct contact format, during peak times of the day: 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Summer), 3:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m. (Winter).

B. Functions of direct contact reference service include the following:

  1. Maintaining a physical presence at the reference desk.
  2. Roaming the floor, actively offering assistance to customers.
  3. Conducting walk-a-rounds at the beginning and end of shift.
  4. Extending professional courtesy to colleagues: check in with colleagues whose shifts are ending; make verbal contact with colleague to determine any issues or follow-up reference questions that may need to be addressed by the in-coming reference librarian.
  5. Providing quality service as outlined in sections VI – IX.

To Top

VI. In-Person Reference Service

A. Staff at the reference desk will maintain an alert and visibly approachable attitude.

1. Any work done at the desk should not become a barrier to public service.
2. Staff should not appear too busy (look up, smile, greet, stand, etc to acknowledge presence of customer) to be interrupted.

B. An atmosphere conducive to an efficient reference interview should be maintained.

1. Privacy should be provided as best it can in order to encourage the customer to state specific information needs.
2. A low speaking voice is generally appropriate. If necessary, a reference interview may be moved to a more private area.

C. Active assistance should be provided.

  1. Staff should follow-through with service to the customer.
  2. Basic instruction in the use of resources should be provided as needed.
  3. Whenever possible, customers should be accompanied to the source of information rather than directed to it, or, in the case of computer searches, they should be shown how the information was retrieved.

D. Reference staff may help promote individual reading and independent learning interests by introducing materials that meet and develop topics suggested by customers.

To Top

VII. Telephone Reference Service

A. Service is usually limited to supplying the kind of information that is readily available, does not require extensive searching, and may be accurately imparted over the telephone.

B. Ready reference service will be provided for questions that can be answered over the telephone within five minutes while the customer waits.

C. Callback service will be provided the same day for questions that require more than five minutes to answer.

To Top

VIII. Electronic Reference Service

A. Staff will utilize the Internet and other electronic information sources in the same way that print sources are used to answer questions and find information. The staff will both instruct customers in the use of the Internet and other electronic resources as well as refer to these sources as part of a complete reference search strategy. As with print sources, it is not possible for the staff to offer extensive searches or lengthy instruction. The library offers free classes on a scheduled basis.

B. Reference questions may be emailed to the library; as with telephone requests, responses will be emailed back within the workday, if possible. Email requests are limited to information of a ready-reference nature. More complex questions may need to be negotiated in person at the library, or over the phone, but staff will offer initial suggestions to begin a search.

C. Through its affiliation with the South Central Library System, the Mount Horeb Public Library is a member of AskAway, a 24/7 reference service. AskAway is a member of the 24/7 Reference Consortium, which includes academic and public libraries located throughout the United States and Canada.

To Top

IX. Mail (Postal) Reference Service

A. Mail reference service is generally not within the scope of the library's reference service program. However, it may be utilized in regards to the home-bound customer or other cases which the director may approve.

B. Staff will attempt to answer mail inquiries received from outside the South Central Library System with available local resources. Preference will be given to requests for information specific to Mount Horeb. Generic requests, i.e., questions that can be answered with the resources available at most public libraries, or requests that involve extensive searching will not be honored.

1. Genealogical requests will be referred to the State Historical Society Library unless a library volunteer is available to peruse the microfilm.

C. Requests that require photocopying of more than ten pages must be accompanied by payment. The cost is ten cents per page.

To Top

X. Special Approach Reference Questions

A. ASAP items for consideration: When a customer desires an item not found in LINKcat, the reference staff may consider the merit of acquiring the item for the library’s collection versus requesting the item through interlibrary (Worldcat). Things to consider when evaluating an item for an ASAP purchase:

  1. The item under consideration should be less than 5 years old; however, some out of print items may be good candidates if the following criteria apply.
  2. The item must receive good reviews in either Library Journal or
  3. The condition of the available items (used) must be good (it should not look like a candidate for weeding) and should not exceed $30.00.
  4. The item must make sense in terms of both community mores and a balanced collection.
  5. Textbooks needed for classes or special customer projects will not be candidates for ASAP purchases.
  6. Exacting timeframes by the customer will indicate the item is not a good ASAP candidate; we cannot guarantee when Amazon will have an item available.

B. Evaluations and ratings

  1. Assistance is provided to customers in locating the appropriate sources of information and, if necessary, directions on how to use them.
  2. For telephone requests, staff may read a summary evaluation of a specific product, citing the source of the information. Staff may give brand names and model numbers of products and may quote car prices.
  3. Personal opinions are not appropriate in this area.

C. Values of art works, coins, stamps, and other collectibles.

1. Undocumented appraisals of the values of such items are not given.
2. Staff will refer customers to standard antique and collectible price guides, when appropriate.

To Top

D. Critical analyses

  1. Personal critical analysis, interpretations, or judgments of the merit of literary works are to be supplemented with published critiques whenever possible.
  2. 2. All personal evaluations should be identified as such.

E. Medical, legal, statistical, and technical information

  1. Material of any type related to these fields (including tables, charts, equations, laws, regulatory or tax information, legal and medical definitions) are not to be interpreted by staff.
  2. In the case of telephone requests, information may be read over the phone, including the citation of the source, but customers must interpret the information. Customers should be advised to read the material for themselves.
  3. Staff should feel free to state that they do not have the specialized knowledge to interpret material for conclusive answers.

F. Compilations and literature searches: Staff does not prepare extensive compilations, bibliographies, lists, and the like for customers, nor are exhaustive literature searches undertaken.

G. Translations: Staff does not supply translations for customers.

H. Tax forms

  1. The library makes available reproducible tax forms provided by the federal Internal
  2. Revenue Service and the state Department of Revenue as well as copies of commonly requested forms in bulk.
  3. The library staff is not qualified to offer assistance in tax form preparation or to interpret tax laws. Appropriate referrals to other agencies may be suggested.

To Top

XI. Other Public Service Responsibilities of Reference Staff

A. Reference staff oversees the use of the library; this includes walk-a-rounds during reference shift.

B. Reference staff assists with the opening of closing of the library as per the dictates of one’s shift.

C. Oversees use of computer lab: Provide, as time permits, cursory assistance related to the use of software programs, printers and scanners. See the Computer Use and Gaming Equipment Policy, section VIII: Staff Assistance Guidelines.

D. Oversee appropriate behaviors in the computer lab as outlined in the Computer Use and Gaming Equipment Policy, section III: Appropriate Behaviors Guidelines.

E. Staff will assist customers in using the photocopier and microfilm reader/printer.

F. Oversee the use of the public phone at the circulation desk. Customers will be encouraged to keep all phone calls to 1 minute.

G. Telephone requests for paging people will generally be honored. Reference staff may make decisions regarding the appropriateness of the request on a case-by-case basis.

H. Quiet area/Study rooms

1. Staff may request that fewer people work together in one area if the situation warrants it or suggest that they use one of the library’s study rooms.
2. Individuals or groups of up to five may sign up to use the library’s study rooms.

D. Proctoring

1. The reference staff may serve as proctors for students in accredited extended degree programs.
2. Students must schedule exams in advance.

E. Circulation functions: Reference staff will generally refer such questions to the circulation desk unless the Head of Public Services is unavailable.

F. Reference staff will support circ staff in a back-up capacity when the lines at the circulation desk reach four or more people, but only if the reference librarian is not engaged in a reference question.

1. The reference librarian may step in to assist with the check out process if the circulation staff encounters a complex circulation transaction: lost book payments, library card registration, etc. The circulation staff member will be responsible for handling the complex transaction to its completion.

To Top

| 11.18.2014 |