Why Does A Change In Reference Services Matter?

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Why Does A Change In Reference Services Matter?

With the digital revolution, libraries have had to adapt to the high-tech world to remain relevant. Some of the biggest changes to the way libraries operate have occurred in reference services. Read on to discover what these changes are and why they matter.

Reference Services Have Gone High Tech

Traditionally, a librarian would man the reference desk and help readers find the information they need using reference books, newspaper clippings, and index cards. However, the ubiquity of the Internet has seen digital reference services alter the traditional model.

People visiting libraries today understand how to find information (via search engines like Google), but oftentimes enjoy the assistance of a librarian to navigate complex information. Studies show that users of library virtual reference services use them to filter and interpret the information they can find online. They expect that libraries will provide reliable and verified information, which isn’t always the case with online sources.

Library Hours Can Be Extended

Many libraries offer these virtual reference services 24 hours per day. These services are accessible remotely online and provide a convenient way for researchers to utilize library services whenever and from wherever they want. These services often use web forms or chat applications to facilitate communication between librarians and library patrons. The move towards virtual reference services has allowed libraries to operate outside of traditional business hours.

This potential has been used with success by Chasing the Sun, a collaboration between libraries in the United Kingdom and Australia. The different time zones in each region ensure that there is always someone available to field questions posed through the digital reference chat service. The initiative is targeted at health professionals, who often need medical information at any time of the day or night to handle emergencies.

Libraries Are Staying Relevant

As Internet has and continues to grow in popularity, the status of libraries as a valuable source of information has not diminished. The recent digitalization of reference services has helped libraries maintain their usefulness. If you are working towards your Library and Information Science degree online, then you are already taking part in the digital evolution of librarianship. You are learning the innovations and technological changes affecting the library field right from your computer screen.

Libraries Can Find New Promotional Opportunities

Through making their reference services more high tech, libraries are finding new marketing opportunities for their programs. For example, consider the case of Ask Anything, the virtual reference service of Finland’s Helsinki City Library. The visibility of this program led to the launch of two weekly radio show spin-offs.

The Ask Anything program launched with the Finnish Broadcasting Company sees radio listeners emailing and phoning in with their questions. Each week the library team picks one question to research and answer live on air. The program highlights not just the answer, but also the process of discovering it. There’s also The Secrets of Helsinki on Radio Helsinki, which broadcasts short facts about the city (which come from the Ask Anything web archive).

These programs are valuable promotional tools that wouldn’t have been possible without the high-tech changes to the reference services.