Reference and User Services

A main asset of a library is its reference collection. The knowledge and ability to direct and guide users in using this reference material is Reference and User Services. Reference and User Services is a core competency of librarianship listed by the American  Library Association. This skill requires the ability to communicate well and listen to what the user is requesting. An Asian American History library for example would have a majority of its collection focus on Asian literature and the history of Asian Americans in the United States. If a library is not specialized in a specific category then it may dedicate a reference collection on the subject. Libraries must regulate and balance their collections to ensure that it meets the needs of the library user and services. This method of material management is called Collection Development.

With knowledge of specialized material, an information professional can be pivotal in the promotion of that content. When I created a Book Talk about author/artist Frida Kahlo, I provided a great example of the Reference and User Services competency. Also included in this competency is the importance of a  collection management policy used to guide the acquiring of material. It is not unusual for a library to ignore their policy to fulfill a specific need. The acquisition of new material is not the only component of collection development. Outdated material and titles no longer contributing to circulation must be discarded (weeded) and removed permanently from the collection. This creates a great management system that keeps library shelves stocked with relevant and needed material.

Large library systems may incline to have a standard collection policy that each library branch is to follow. Some large library systems have the ability to devote a library to a specialized collection for the entire branch. It is common to find libraries that store a variety of specialized collections. One deciding factor in what a collection consist of will always be the needs of the library that will help it serve its users.

ALA. (2009). ALA’s Core Competencies of Librarianship. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from the World Wide Web:


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