Monday, May 16, 2011
Crash Course in Reference
by Charlotte Ford
This is an excellent primer in reference service! I recommend it to library school students, paraprofessionals who provide reference service, and library interns. In fact, library interns are the reason I read this. I was browsing the professional reference collection in my office when it caught my eye. I wasn't looking for anything specific, but did have intern training in mind.
This book assumes no knowledge or understanding of library reference services. It starts with a chapter called "What is Reference Service."
Then there is a chapter on doing a reference interview, but it takes into account the idea that each situation and circumstance warrants its own methods and techniques of communicating with the patron. Sometimes closed questions are better than open-ended. Sometimes you need to follow through more with one patron than another. Sometimes patrons are frustrated and angry with the answer (or lack thereof).
The book goes through all kinds of sources, describing standard titles like the Merck Manual and the World Almanac and Book of Facts. It also discusses databases, library catalogs, and search engines and search techniques for each.
Finally, there is a section on ethics and policies. Those new to reference service definitely need to be reminded to be discreet when necessary, as well as issues like copyright. The book wraps up with a chapter about networking with other librarians, staying current through various current awareness tools, and continuing education.
I hope that Ms. Ford updates this book in the next few years. It's still very relevant, but as I was reading I kept thinking that in a few years some of the links cited throughout could be obsolete. The nature of reference is changing, and a nod to the different types of questions librarians are asked these days would be welcomed.
Overall, this is a timely, relevant, and useful training tool for new librarians and other reference service providers.