Fielding Reference Questions

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Last week the Kalamazoo Gazette had an article “Of Giraffes and More: Fielding Questions on the Reference Desk.” The reporter had asked several of our reference staff for the most interesting question of the year. What a challenging question to ask our staff AND what challenging questions they have answered!

As reported in the article, we had a record number of questions last year: 192,580 to be exact and patron assistance in all categories, included reference questions, is up about 20% so far this year. We too are experiencing the national trend of an increase in library use in all categories during challenging economic times.

Some had predicted a decline in the need for reference assistance at public libraries with home internet access and the advent of websites like Google and Wikipedia. That is not happening at KPL, nor at libraries generally. Business is booming! Patrons need help defining their search strategy and finding authoritative sources.

We can help. Our staff has reviewed many, many websites, selected the best ones, and arranged them in 49 categories or topic guides. We continually add new categories and add additional resources to the current ones.

Come visit soon…..or go to our website or call or email with your reference questions.


Of giraffes and more: Librarians field complicated questions on the reference desk (Kalamazoo Gazette)

Posted by Ann Rohrbaugh at 02/19/2009 04:30:33 PM | 

For those that don't know me, I am the head of the department here at KPL that includes reference and I have had a few friends and family comment on the article with something along the lines of “I can’t believe people don’t just Google that stuff”. While I understand this attitude and celebrate the fact that powerful information gathering tools are available, free of charge, to all; I think "just Google it" mind-set overestimates the sophistication of search engines and the internet in general and doesn’t really take into account the need people have for help navigating the often overwhelming amounts of information available to them and finding authoritative answers. The Gazette article was great! Please don't get me wrong, it is so very nice to have an article written about what we do here at KPL with our reference service. I just hope readers don’t get the notion that all we do is trivia pursuit related and that the reference desk is here to help patrons find real, authoritative, answers to their questions and help to navigate our information heavy modern we can recommend a great book!
Posted by: Michael ( Email | Visit ) at 2/2/2009 4:30 PM

Our role as facilitators and mediators of information is to decrease the abstraction and ambiguity of the net by helping citizens with limited searching skills navigate source material. Google only opens the novice searcher up to more information and doesn't provide clarity or authority.
Posted by: Ryan ( Email ) at 2/2/2009 5:06 PM

Thanks for sharing the link to the Gazette article. The KPL reference staff helped me by recommending two incredible databases: Catalog of Art Museum Images Online (CAMIO) and Associated Press (AP) Multimedia Archive. These databases are filled with impressive art, photography and visual inspiration…great resources for students and teachers.
Posted by: kristin ( Email ) at 2/2/2009 8:32 PM

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