ODU reference librarians provide quality reference and resaerch assistance to the ODU community to address their information and research needs. Learning how to use information resources is vital to lifelong learning; therefore, as active agents in the promotion of information literacy, ODU reference librarians strive to equip patrons with the skills to conduct effective and increasingly independent research.
ODU Library’s reference librarians aim to provide comprehensive services to library patrons. Comprehensive reference service can be defined in terms of answering the query and/or providing the means for the patron to find the answer to the query.
ODU Reference Services reflect the Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers, from the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). These guidelines outline professional behavior in reference and information services, detailing the importance of the following:
ODU reference librarians take all information needs of every patron seriously and will treat all patrons with respect, courtesy, interest, and confidentiality (see also our Professional Ethics section).
While librarians who provide reference service will aid in identifying the criteria for evaluation of an information resource, they are not obligated to interpret the intellectual content of the information found in information sources or evaluate the information for inclusion in a student assignment.
Librarians who provide reference service are likewise not obligated to provide assistance in formatting citations. They may refer patrons to the appropriate resources available or refer a patron to the Write Place.
We provide reference service in person, by phone, by email, and by chat. Reference service to library patrons is on a first-come, first-serve basis, regardless of the medium in which the question is received.
Librarians on duty at the Reference Desk balance the needs of all patrons in the immediate area, on the phone, and online and use judgment in determining how best to serve patrons who may simultaneously need assistance.
Librarians are happy to answer questions and assist students to help them to do in-depth research, but ODU librarians will not provide the following:
In the event of a lengthy in-depth reference search, the librarian on reference duty may provide a patron with materials to help the patron start researching, then turn to assist other patrons, returning to the first patron as soon as feasible. Or the librarian on duty may request assistance from another member of the reference staff.
When the reference area is busy, the librarian on duty will respond to a telephone call or chat during a reference exchange at the Reference Desk, but may do one or more of the following as deemed appropriate to the circumstances by the librarian:
Additionally, for telephone inquiries the information a librarian would give would typically be brief responses, including typically no more than three bibliographic or catalog verifications for an individual telephone user.
Regarding online, or virtual, reference service, our librarians offer two formats: email and chat reference. Virtual reference is designed primarily to answer brief, factual questions such as verifying a bibliographic citation, looking up spelling or a definition of words, or finding addresses of companies but can also be used to assist with such things as search strategy and database navigation.
To ensure patron privacy, virtual reference queries are accessed only by ODU librarians. ODU Library retains no identifying personal information in the long term. Some e-mail with identifying information may be retained temporarily so that reference staff may refer to earlier information when answering ongoing reference questions. After 30 days, names and email addresses of any emails maintained on file are erased and only the content of the email is retained. Additionally, our chat service platform, LibraryH3lp, ensures that all chats are anonymous (read about chat anonymity here) and is private and secure.
To ensure timely responsiveness to patrons, librarians monitor incoming chat questions while on reference duty and throughout the day monitor email and respond to queries as soon as possible, with a maximum turn-around time on emails of 1 business day, except on days when the university is closed.
Librarians respond in a timely manner to faculty/staff research requests, with reference service taking priority over other duties, answering phone and email messages within one business day.
In the case of receiving questions inappropriate for Reference Services, librarians will direct a patron to a source able to answer the questions (e.g., MLA style, in which case we would refer the patron to the Academic Resource Center).
Reference librarians will deal with problem patrons in a polite but firm manner. Librarians reserve the right to terminate a phone call or virtual reference exchange in the event of abusive, obscene, threatening, or harassing messages or false identification. If a patron becomes abusive at the Reference Desk, appropriate action will be taken by calling Public Safety at 4700.
Reference librarians provide all patrons reference service that aims to enable the patron to participate fully in the access and use of resources offered, so far as is reasonably feasible. This includes patrons with disabilities, patrons on campus, and patrons off campus--all within the ODU community.
In keeping with the ODU Library’s mission to provide personalized service and access to information for the ODU community, the reference staff is dedicated to providing ODU patrons with disabilities a quality of reference services that aims to enable them to participate fully in the access and use of resources offered, so far as is reasonably feasible. For the purposes of this policy, “disability,” “disabilities,” and “disabled” may refer to any mobility or sensory impairment.
ODU reference librarians will treat all patrons with equal dignity and respect. To meet the special needs of patrons with disabilities, reference staff will go beyond the normal level of services to make the library’s resources accessible to patrons with disabilities to the extent possible.
In complete agreement with the American Library Association on Services to Patrons with Disabilities, ODU reference librarians believe that a “person's right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of disabilities” (1). For ODU faculty, staff, and students with a mobility or sensory impairment, reference librarians may therefore offer the following services, as needed:
ODU Library Reference staff will work with the Disability Services, Academic Resource Center, and the Head Librarian to ensure disabled patrons have access to the appropriate support to enable them to use the range of reference services and library resources offered to the ODU community. If we cannot meet a patron’s needs, we will endeavor to refer the patron to an alternative access point.
Pursuant to Ohio law,(2) reference librarians can provide assistance to individuals in locating materials that might be helpful in answering a particular legal question, but by law are not permitted to interpret legal materials for patrons, give legal advice (e.g., advise as to how a law might apply to a given situation), or assist them in choosing, preparing, or filling out legal forms of any kind.
Reference librarians provide medical reference services that include the following, in accordance with the Health and Medical Reference Guidelines from the Reference & User Services Association (RUSA) (3):
Reference librarians will also follow the behavioral and ethics guidelines outlined therein.
In addition, teference librarians observe the following ethical guidelines provided by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) when answering consumer-related health questions and will: (4)
As stated in both the NNLM and RUSA guidelines, reference librarians are not qualified to provide a diagnosis; interpret medical information; give medical advice or opinion; or make medical or health-related recommendations. (5).
To help address the research needs of the ODU community, the library strives to maintain an up-to-date, relevant, and accessible collection of reference materials, including print and electronic resources.
The collection development and maintenance of the library's in-house reference collection is the responsibility of the Reference and Instruction Services Coordinator and the budget for which is the responsibility of the Head Librarian. Reference collection development policies and procedures are outlined in the ODU Library's Collection Development Manual.
Reference materials are generally non-circulating, with the exception of items that have yellow label protectors indicating a seven-day loan for ODU faculty, staff, and students, with no renewal (refer to the Library Borrowing Policies). Additional exceptions may be made for faculty and teaching staff, depending on the nature of the materials, the projected need, and the prospective period of circulation.
The Reference and Instruction Services Coordinator may give permission for reference materials to circulate, or the librarian on duty at the Reference Desk, if the Reference and Instruction Services Coordinator cannot be reached for a decision within a reasonable amount of time. In the case of such an exception, a reference item may circulate for 24 hours, maximum 48 hours.
1. "Services to Persons with Disabilities: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights", American Library Association, February 2, 2009. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/servicespeopledisabilities (Accessed July 26, 2013). Document ID: 398eba54-484f-8904-692b-08e6b52f76ed.
2. “The practice of law is, 'as generally understood, the doing or performing services in a court of justice, in any matter depending therein, throughout its various stages, and in conformity with the adopted rules of procedure. But in a larger sense it includes legal advice and counsel, and the preparation of legal instruments and contracts by which legal rights are secured, although such matter may or may not be depending in a court.” Land Title Abstract & Trust Co. v. Dworken, 193 N.E. 650 (1934) at 650. 49 Corpus Juris, p. 1313. Cited by the American Bar Association. Retrieved July 5, 2013, at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/cpr/model-def/model_def_statutes.authcheckdam.pdf.
3. Reference and User Services Association. Health and Medical Reference Guidelines. 2015. http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidelinesmedical. Access 25 April 2016.
4. Liebermann, Jana. “Ethical Considerations.” The Consumer Health Reference Interview and Ethical Issues. Updated by Kelli Ham. National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Adapted from Healthnet: Connecticut Consumer Health Information Network. http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/ethics.html. Accessed 26 July 2013.