The Teaching Librarian


Digital Reference
Roving Reference
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Roving Reference

Also known as point-of-use service, roving reference is basically what happens when librarians come out from behind the reference desk and wander around the library looking for students in need of assistance (particularly those who might be struggling with electronic resources). For an introduction to this subject, the Discussion Group on Reference Work Report is a good beginning point.

In the spring of 1999, Martin Courtois and Maira Liriano surveyed librarians on the listserv LIBREF-L about roving reference in their libraries. The summary of their responses can be found on the listserv archives.

An interesting development in the provision of roving reference is beginning to take shape now in the world of digital reference. A few of the software products libraries are using to provide chat reference allow the librarian to send a floating icon across the screen of people viewing specific pages of the library web site, which the user can then click on to launch a chat. Such proactive invitations to chat can be considered a form of roving reference, albeit in a limited, online form. Here at the Newman Library at Baruch College, our chat reference service (Ask a Librarian) uses the HumanClick Pro software, which allows us to send these chat invitations. LivePerson, which acquired HumanClick in 2000, also includes this technology. For more about the software, visit the page on my site that discusses web contact center software.

Further Reading

Courtois, M. and Liriano, M. (April 2000). Tips for roving reference. College and Research Libraries News, 61(4): 289-290.

Kramer, E.H. (Fall 1996). Why roving reference: A case study in a small academic library. Reference Services Review, 24: 67-80.

Thomsen, E.T. (1999). Rethinking reference: The reference librarian's guide for surviving constant change. New York: Neal-Schuman.

E-mail your comments or suggestions to Stephen Francoeur

Last updated: December 26, 2001