Monday, December 06, 2010

Inventing the Future by Tinkering with the Past: Roles for Reference Librarians

From the Reference Renaissance Conference.

Presenter: Amy VanScoy, Doctoral Student, School of Information & Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“This paper reviews conceptual papers and research studies on these traditional and emerging roles. Using examples from practice, it also explores how these roles manifest themselves in traditional and emerging forms of reference. The goal of the paper is to articulate the diversity of possible roles, to explore how they might interconnect and to examine how librarians can use them to shape their work.” (Description in the conference program.)

Slideshow:,1,Slide 1
(Includes quotes from the literature that illustrate the ideas of the roles.)

(Includes a bibliography of her sources for this presentation.)

This was an interesting session on the roles a librarian plays as she interacts with patrons, as reflected in the literature. She did a literature review, and then narrowed down her roles as they gelled in her reading.

Two big roles the literature discusses are:

1. Information Provider

2. Teacher - instruction

They are often talked about as if these were the only things librarians do and are often set in opposition - expert v. teacher. Often in essays, but not in research. Much of the research says these roles are both important and need to be played in tandem.

Other roles she found:

Communicator – There’s some talk of putting information provider and communication in opposition.

Relationship development

Counselor - Not discussed a lot, but in a couple of papers. Mediation was used in one of the papers.

Partner (with the patron)

How do these roles work together? Hierarchically? How much does environment affect these roles. How are they balanced? How much is personal style?

Inventing by tinkering:

Examining past roles
Reflective practice
Sharing with colleagues

She used the word “tinkering” because it implies a work that’s never done, as well as working with different elements and reflection, and mixing and matching and introducing new elements.

Melissa @ Central.

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