Office of the Associate University Librarian
Research and Undergraduate Services
Public Services Administrative Memo #18

The Information Service program of the Libraries is designed to support the instructional, research, and service missions of the University. The following guidelines are used to describe and implement the various service programs provided in each library.

I. What is Information Service?

A. Basic/general information can be provided by librarians, staff, or trained student assistants -- in person, by phone, by electronic communication, or by the use of signs, printed guides and such electronic tools as hypertext systems and other user interfaces. It addresses the more routine information needs of patrons, including:

1. Library Holdings & Bibliographic Citations

2. Library Policies (e.g. admission to libraries; borrowing; ILL)

3. Library Hours/Directions

4. Ready Reference (e.g. brief definitions; brief statistical data; other concise factual information)

B. Reference Service is provided by all the Rutgers libraries. The most in-depth service is provided by professional librarians; other levels of service may be provided by highly trained staff or graduate assistants under the supervision of professional librarians. Reference Service includes instruction, and instructional and research support which may take place at the Reference Desk, in private consultations with reference specialists, by electronic mail, by phone, and through formal and informal library instruction.

1. Reference Service also includes the development and implementation of printed guides, computer systems, and user interfaces to support independent research and end-user searching.

2. Since the Rutgers University Libraries are part of an educational institution, reference service is often appropriately instructional in nature -- fostering the client's information literacy and self-sufficiency by instruction in the methods of research, the tools of research (both printed and electronic), and the ability to evaluate the quality and relevance of the research material retrieved.

3. Reference Service includes instruction in the use of bibliographic sources, assistance in developing research strategies, assistance in locating complex data, the retrieval of data through electronic means, etc.

4. At other times, especially in the smaller and more specialized of the Rutgers Libraries, or in cases involving clients with special needs, reference service might more appropriately take the form of providing factual answers, retrieving and packaging bibliographic or statistical data.

5. In many instances, reference assistance involves the use of electronic databases -- whether stand-alone CD-ROM stations, local area networks, locally mounted databases, or databases or networks accessible for RUL terminals -- including such fee-based vendors as Dialog and BRS.

6. The appropriate level of service will usually be determined by the mission of the library, the needs of the client, and the professional judgment of the reference librarian.

II. Reference Clients -- Whom We Serve, and Why

Each of the Rutgers University Libraries has collections and services designed to meet the service needs of a particular segment of the Rutgers community -- students, faculty and staff (including the Rutgers Medical School). Therefore, the libraries are in the best position to provide the highest level of service to our primary users. These users may change as Rutgers seeks to establish collaborative educational arrangements with other state institutions, such as NJIT.

As a state institution with a responsibility to provide service and support within the state, New Jersey residents may use our facilities, and as far as is practical, avail themselves of our services as time and circumstances permit.

The University Libraries may engage in mutually beneficial contractual arrangements. These include referral services for the New Jersey Network Libraries, METRO libraries, OCLC, and the Research Libraries Group. These reciprocal arrangements provide the needed services for Rutgers users who cannot have their needs met within the Rutgers libraries.

Reference service provided by a Rutgers library as a professional courtesy to outside users (other librarians, independent researchers, etc.), does not take the place of services provided by their primary library --whether school, public, academic or special. In many instances, it will be appropriate to ascertain that they have already exhausted the resources of those libraries, or to refer such clients to other appropriate libraries, insofar as we do not have the specialized resources needed or the professional expertise to handle their queries.

III. Service Parameters

A. Reference and information service by phone will be subject to a number of limitations.

1. Priority in providing information or reference will normally be given to in-person requests over phone requests.

2. Information or reference assistance given by phone will generally be quite brief; clients in need of more extensive assistance may be advised to visit the library or referred to a subject specialist.

3. More extensive phone service will be provided to other Rutgers Libraries, other institutions, and, when possible, to Rutgers faculty and students. In most such instances, these clients will be advised that librarians will call back with the desired information, as instant responses will not normally be feasible.

B. There will be instances in which licensing agreements or other contractual restrictions preclude offering the same level of service to non-RU clients. In such instances, appropriate reference service might consist of a referral to a library able and willing to provide the desired service.

C. The Libraries cannot provide legal, medical or pharmaceutical advice in response to reference queries. Specific information may be read from manuals, but in most circumstances patrons will be referred to sources of information from which to draw conclusions.

D. The Libraries will not provide recommendations on commercial products and/or services in response to queries but will refer users to sources of information on these topics.

E. The Libraries assume no liability for any misinformation and/or interpretations drawn from sources cited in response to queries.

IV. How Information Service is Provided

A. All information transactions between library staff and clients, regardless of whether they take place at a formal service point or in some other context, will be governed by the standards articulated in the American Library Association's Code of Ethics and their code of Civility set forth by President Francis Lawrence of Rutgers University. In particular:

1. Library staff will provide information service to all clients without discrimination based on race, creed, gender, sexual preference, age, ethnicity, English language proficiency, or Rutgers affiliation.

2. All information transactions will be conducted with professional courtesy, respect, and confidentiality.

3. Librarians will attempt to provide complete, accurate, and timely information in response to all questions. In many cases, however, an "answer" will take the form of instruction in the use of research materials. In other cases, because of the scope of the Rutgers collections or because of a client's primary affiliation with another institution, an "answer" might take the form of a specific referral to another institution.

4. Librarians will conduct reference interviews using the most effective proven techniques, including open-ended, neutral questioning. Library staff will refrain from making overt judgments about the merit, relevance, or value of questions posed by clients.

B. All librarians providing reference service will attempt to adhere to the highest standards of knowledge and proficiency.

1. In-depth knowledge of the reference collection

2. Knowledge of regional and national resources, most especially in their areas of expertise

3. Knowledge of library collection scope (local and system-wide)

4. Awareness of local expertise and the ability to refer effectively within RUL

5. Knowledge of IRIS and other RUL files.

6. Knowledge of major bibliographic networks (e.g. RLIN, OCLC & the Internet).

7. Knowledge of library and university policies.

8. Knowledge of electronic information services.

9. Awareness of newly emerging technologies.

C. Professional development is the ongoing responsibility of all librarians to maintain current skills, develop new skills, and to implement the information services needed in a constantly changing environment. To support this development the Rutgers University Libraries will provide in-service training for librarians, encourage and support attendance at other professional programs, and provide the appropriate equipment suitable for service at the highest level.

RUL will continue to provide, on a system-wide basis, workshops and other formal programs designed to help librarians keep abreast of new technologies and other advances and to maintain traditional skills at a high level. Such programs should include both in-house and external experts.

1. Individual units will continue to provide local workshops and programs targeted to the needs of local librarians and their immediate constituencies.

2. All libraries will continue to foster an atmosphere of cordiality and collegiality which encourages colleagues to share their expertise with one another on a formal and informal basis.

3. Participation in formal and informal educational programs is recognized as a key part of scholarly development.

4. In every recruitment process the libraries are committed to seeking a candidate with the requisite expertise and a commitment to information services.

Approved Librarian's Cabinet 10/6/92
cc: Librarian's Cabinet

PSA Admin Memo #18 - Page 2

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