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Reference librarian

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A librarian employed in a reference department who is responsible for providing helpful information in response to questions posed by users of the library. Reference service may be delivered in person (see reference desk), or by phone or e-mail or virtual reference (chat).

Qualifications of a Reference Librarian[edit]

A Reference Librarian must be responsive to the needs of users, think critically and be organized as well as organize or coordinate projects and services for the user. A reference librarian must be aware of current trends and have a wide base of knowledge. They must also keep tabs on the new types of reference and user services. They must effectively evaluate the sources that they come into contact with so as to provide the user with the best information possible. They must also be able to collaborate with others to improve services and implement new services, in the profession and also with the user. The librarian must also be an advocate for the library and be involved in any outreach programs and actively promote the library and its services. Education for the profession of Reference librarian requires a masters in library science from an accredited school and usually some type of library experience.

Roles of the Reference Librarian[edit]

This can be dependent upon the setting: in an academic environment it could be promoting the library's services, interacting with faculty, teaching information literacy courses, collection development, keeping up with new technology, creating information services and conducting the reference interview. In a public library it could mean doing reference work as well as checking out books to patrons. The reference librarian is part of user services and is therefore very important to the user and fulfilling their needs. The role of the Reference librarian today is definitely changing, especially with so many students using Google and getting most of their sources online, also there are several sources online where students can go that provide information services. "Coffman and Arret reported on recent ARL statistics that show a decrease of 40 percent in reference transactions between 1997 and 2003" (Cassell and Hiremath). The Reference librarian is not called upon to answer questions or gather information as much as they have in the past and the ways in which they answer questions are changing as well.

  • Online Reference information services:

  • The Internet Public Library is a site that offers reference information online. Users can ask questions and get answers anytime, anywhere online without having to go to a library, to a reference desk.

  • Ask a Librarian is a online site where users can ask a reference librarian a question and get an answer, this service is provided by the Library of Congress.

Salaries for Librarians[edit]

Reference may be included in any of these areas

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools $47,830

Elementary and secondary schools $47,580

Local government $42,500

Other information services $40,000


Ask a Librarian. (Accessed October 19, 2007)

Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07, Librarians. (Accessed October 20, 2007)

Cassell, Kay A., and Uma Hiremath. Reference and Information Services in the 21st Century. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2006.

"Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers," American Library Association, February 02, 2007. (Accessed October 15, 2007)

Internet Public Library. (Accessed October 19, 2007)

"Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians," American Library Association, March 09, 2007. (Accessed October 15, 2007)