An analysis of reference services usage at a regional academic health sciences library
journal contributionposted on 2011-05-12, 00:00 authored by Felicia A. Barrett
The University of Illinois Crawford Library of the Health Sciences at Rockford (CLHS-R) has been serving University of Illinois College of Medicine faculty, students, and staff and the area community since 1972. CLHS-R is a regional academic health sciences library for the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The mission of the UIC University Library includes “ensuring that faculty, students and other users have access to a broad and diversified range of scholarly resources” and “engaging in outreach to the community” . In keeping with this mission, CLHS-R welcomes members of the community into the library and provides borrowing privileges to Illinois residents with proper identification. The collection at CLHS-R primarily focuses on the curriculum and research needs of the faculty, students, and staff from the colleges of medicine, nursing, and public health. The secondary focus of the collection is on consumer health. At CLHS-R, the consumer health collection has been pulled from the regular collection and resides in a quiet reading area in the back of the library that offers privacy. Providing health information to consumers is a common practice among academic health sciences libraries [2, 3].The purpose of this study is to examine the trends in reference services usage provided by CLHS-R from 1990 through 2009. Numerous articles can be found in the literature discussing the most efficient method of staffing the reference desk [4, 5]. Many studies have also asked if the reference desk should be eliminated completely [6–8]. At CLHS-R, the traditional reference desk has been phased out even though patrons still walk in the door and need assistance. Using a triage approach, patrons come to the user services desk to request assistance. The library staff member at the user services desk determines the difficulty of the question and handles the query directly or refers the patron to a reference librarian. Training of the library staff is critical so that the reference questions are handled properly.Over the past two decades, the method of providing reference services has changed dramatically [9–12]. The explosion of the Internet has changed the way libraries provide reference services today [13–16]. Overall traditional reference transactions have declined, while electronic reference questions have increased . The author asked, “Who is really using the reference services at CLHS-R and why?” Knowing who is using reference and why should help reference librarians plan for the future.