2005 Access Services Symposium
11 March 2005
Combined Service Points Discussion Group Summary
Facilitator: Mary Giunta, Columbia University
Recorder: Mitchell Brown, Princeton University
Library users have the expectation that the circulation desk is a focal point for questions. “Expectation from user, everyone is a librarian [at the circulation desk].” Quote from the Combined Service Points session.
Mary Giunta from Columbia lead the discussion of Combined Service Points by asking the twenty-two session participants “Do you have a combined service point?” and
comparing various examples provided, such as information, reference, access and other combinations. Questions about each example were raised and discussed. How are referrals handled? Do any libraries use a system to page subject specialists? Who staffs the combined service points: librarians, supervisors, support staff, student workers? What training issues are involved with the combined service desks? What are some pros and cons of combining service points?
The group discussed the ways their institutions are addressing training for combined access services. At the combined service desk several people commented that reference support is provided, but staff also explain library procedures, issuing IDs, and are involved with the reference interview process. Several training techniques were mentions including shadowing reference sessions of librarians and clients, having a coordinator working with small training groups that focus on subject sources, pairing people for work experience (e.g. circulation staff with reference staff to share experience). In the combined service points there was agreement that training in circulation procedures and reference were necessary. Training materials need to be maintained by updating and adding new subjects on an ongoing basis.
Some institutions have librarians teaching research classes in library that cover reference sources. The classes could be used by staff for training. A suggestion was made to include contacting the circulation desk about online journal status (availability during service interruption) or updates on services, to keep the staff of service interruptions to give correct referral directions to library clients. Some institutions have students at circulation desks but they may not be used to answer reference questions. When balancing the roles of staff and student workers at circulation it was suggested that guidelines for depth of reference assistance be made clear during training. Expectations for students need to be made clear during the initial training and refreshed during the year. One institution trained student to the introductory level only to limit reference responses. Questions beyond the introductory level were to be referred to a librarian or staff member. Librarians at the reference desk are making and receiving referrals, working to measure how effective is the referral process to reference questions.
In some locations there are no reference desks in small branch libraries and subject collections. The geography of the library and space planning both influences the location of access points within buildings. During renovations there may be opportunities to combining disperse collections to one reference desk, e.g. combined science reference, and combining reserve/reference collections with subjects (combining science reference to one contact point).
Conclusions of Combining Access Points
Some Positives Results
1. Improve customer service.
2. In planning of the future we may be “naïve” about the number of staff available to
staff areas in the library.
3. Improve work environment, morale, and training.
4. The session participants want to see more articles and assessment results on staff
training published and available for comparison.
Possible Contrary Results
1. Level of training may be great to keep all staff proficient in all duties required.
2. May decrease customer service.
3. Reference librarians feel their responsibility as primary reference contact may be
shifting to other staff and could resist the change.
4. Administration concerns that fewer service points [as a metric in ARL statistics]
would result in a decrease in service.
5. Quality of the reference service experience may be affected. Will the people
giving reference support supply the appropriate answers?