Written by: Nurul Anisah Binti Mohamed Sultan (UiTM Practical Student at USM library)
Importance of Reference Services for Users
Libraries are no longer passive and archival institutions, but are effective service institutions. The responsibilities of libraries go beyond gathering and organizing books and journals to include an active role in disseminating information. One way this can be achieved is through effective reference service. Reference service handles inquiry and assists user in find the information they require, access it and use it to meet their needs. According to Kumar (2003), reference service helps to establish contact between a user and the right document at the right time, thereby saving the time of the user.
A reference service includes question-answering service, search service/search help, bibliography service, and information and referral service identifying related web resources inside or outside. Those services are designed to provide information to users in response to identified needs. Instruction services can range from FAQ to citation guide. SDI service (current awareness service), legal notice, and news service are considered as guidance or advisory service. An important part of a reference service is in charge the reference interview, which involves a personal discussion between a user and the reference librarian. Through the interview the reference librarian not only tries to understand the specific information needs, but also collects information about the user, such as the user’s subject knowledge, the purpose of finding the specific information, and so on. Based on the reference interview, the reference librarian is often able to filter the retrieved information in order to pick up the most appropriate sources for the given user at the given point of time. Other than that reference service especially academic library will conduct classes for user education program to help them searching the right information by using correct Boolean searching, databases and OPAC. User education program is very important in order to assist them search information according to their needs without having any problems. Libraries have also played a key role in providing information services in anticipation of user needs. Such services include various forms of current awareness and selective dissemination of information services that aim to keep the users abreast of the latest developments in their areas of interest.
The tremendous growth and continuous development of technology has decrease the number of user using traditional library services as well as reference service. There is pro and contra when technology makes everything easier. Technological developments have affected not only the formats and sources of the information, but also how and where to provide library services. Libraries and their resources have partially moved to the virtual world of the Internet. As a result, library users can access the resources from outside the physical library. In an effort to reach users accessing the library via their computers, many libraries and library consortia are extending their services to include virtual reference. Technology now allows users to submit their queries to the library at any time from any place in the world. Library service on the internet requires many of the same qualities as traditional references accuracy, courtesy, an understanding of the information need. It provides users with the convenience of accessing information in their own time, saving them traveling cost and time and new options for answering reference questions. The provision of these services is not constrained by the traditional opening hours but can be offered on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis known as 24/7.
Web Based Library Services
Virtual Library Tours
Websites of libraries provides virtual library guide to the physical facilities including collections, services and infrastructure available in the library. The combination of library maps and floor plans, library departments and photographic views are used for the tour. Virtual library tours are also using new technologies such as QuickTime movies etc and are beginning to replace image maps on main campus Web sites.
Ask-A-Librarian services are Internet-based question and answer service that connects users with individuals who possess specialized subject knowledge and skill in conducting precision searches. Most “Ask-a-Librarians” services have a web-based question submission form or an e-mail address or both. Users are invited to submit their queries by using web forms or through e-mail. Once a query is read by a service, it is assigned to an individual expert for answering. An expert responds to the query with factual information and or a list of information resources. The response is either sent to the user’s e-mail account or is posted on the web so that the user can access it after a certain period of time.
Real Time Services
A new and exciting method of digital reference service that libraries are attempting to provide more and more now is live reference. These are real-time, interactive reference services in which the users can talk to a real, live reference librarian at any time, from anywhere in the world. User and librarian can interact using chat technologies, and unlike with email reference the librarian can perform a reference interview of sorts by asking the users to elaborate or clarify if needed before proceeding to answer the question.
Web-based User Education
Web guides and teaching tools are found everywhere on the Web because they are easily updated, accessed, and printed on demand. The web-based user education provides a high degree of interactivity and flexibility to the users. The library web sites can use web-based user education for imparting training to users in teaching the basic library skills along with glossary of library terms, using Library OPAC, locating books, magazines, biographical data and other library materials, understanding how to navigate the libraries website and how to select the most relevant database, instructions for searching CD ROM and guidance in locating web-based databases and other electronic resources and instructions on subject searching training, using Boolean operators and searching internet resources through search engines.
To conclude, reference service has give lots of advantages to users in order to satisfy their needs and demands. The willingness of student to return to the same librarian with another question has show the effective of reference service in fulfill their user need. To keep user using reference service, librarian must aware with the latest environment where the technology has make more people are comfort to use services through online rather than traditional. Digital references services are one way to keep interact with users and attractive website can attract user to use the services.
Anjana Bhatnagar.(2005).Web-based library servives.3rd Convention PLANNER-2005. Assam University, Silchar. Retrieved from http://ir.inflibnet.ac.in
Chowdhury,G.G.(2002).Digital libraries and reference services:present and future. Journal of Documentation,58(3),258-283.doi:10.1108/0020410210425809