Reference Service – Where is it Going? Survey Results

In December 2008, we launched the 60-second survey, “Reference Service – Where is it Going?” The survey was prompted by a discussion on a listserv for librarians working on virtual reference desks around the country. (Thanks Kris Johnson for the tip!)

Clearly a hot topic, we received 1,500 responses from library staff and others reading library blogs, listservs, etc.

Not surprisingly, respondents indicated that reference services are important to both the public and the library itself.

(Click on a chart for a larger, more detailed image.)

When asked “how great is the need for librarian-assisted search services in today’s information environment,” nearly everyone (99%) said it was needed or greatly needed.


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Similarly, respondents thought reference was vital to the library as an institution. 98% of respondents indicated important or very important when asked “how critical are reference services to the survival of libraries?”



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Respondents widely believed that virtual reference will play a big part in the future of library services. Asked “do you think virtual reference services are the future of library reference” nearly 9 out of 10 respondents said “yes.” However, most did not believe it would replace in-person reference.


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In spite of its importance, respondents felt reference was not promoted adequately. 9 out of 10 indicated “the library profession should do more to promote reference services.”


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Recently there has been discussion among librarians about establishing a national effort to promote reference services at libraries. For example, an “ASK” campaign that would be similar to ALA’s “Read” campaign. The majority of respondents (83%) thought “a professional organization should launch a national campaign promoting reference services at libraries.”


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More detail about the results of this 60-second survey will be published in an upcoming edition of Fast Facts. Let us know what you think about reference services in libraries by leaving a comment below.

-Zeth & Nicolle

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