Librarians have been busy this year debating the future of reference. First, a discussion arose at the ALA Midwinter meeting in January about whether libraries should still have a reference desk. Dave Tyckoson, the current president of RUSA, then posed the same question on RUSA’s official blog on February 2 (“Ditching the Desk?”) and got a few comments, including one that I wrote.
This same debate over the future of the desk came up again at the Reference Symposium held at Columbia University Libraries on March 9 at which it was argued whether or not the reference desk will disappear in five years. At ACRLog, Steven Bell wrote two posts describing his role in the debate in arguing that the desk would indeed be gone:
- “So What If We Do Pander To Students” (March 23)
- “Debating the Future of the Reference Desk” (March 26)
Another event that sparked a lot of commentary (on blogs and elsewhere) was a panel session on March 30 at the ACRL conference in Baltimore titled “The Reference Question–Where has Reference Been? Where is Reference Going?” Notable coverage included:
- Brian Matthews at the Ubiquitous Librarian: “Reference Desk Backlash” (April 16)
- Barbara Fister at ACRLog: “Re: Reference” (April 17)
- Kathy De Mey at the Dig_Ref list: “is face-to-face reference dying?” (April 18)
- Scott Carlson at the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Are Reference Desks Dying Out” (April 20)
Though dated April 20, the piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Scott Carlson actually came out before the blog posts by Brian Matthews and Barbara Fister and is no longer freely available on the Chronicle‘s web site.
The blog posts all offer a rich set of comments that gave me quite a few ideas, not so much prognostications about the future but instead a vision of how I would like to see our college library’s reference desk changed. In my next post, I’ll tackle that.