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Reference Services and Library

Reference Services Definition


Reference service is the supreme and ultimate function of the library. This is infact the hub of all library activities. Reference service is sometimes referred to as ‘reference and information services’ or ‘reader services’.
According to A.B. Kroeger – Reference service as “assistance in the use of resources of the library”.
According to James I. Wyer – “Reference service is that part of library administration which deals with the assistance given to the readers in their use of the resources of the library.”
According to Margaret Hutchins– “Reference service includes the direct, personal aid within a library to persons in search of information for whatever purpose and also various library activities specially aimed at making information as easily available as possible.”
According to Samuel Rothstein- Reference service as “the personal assistance given by the libraries to individual readers in pursuit of information.”
S.R. Ranganathan offered a definition of reference service in a precise manner: “Reference service is the process of establishing contact between a reader and his documents in a personal way.”

Types of reference service:

The goals of Library’s reference service are to connect library users with the best available library and information resources for their research needs, and to achieve the connection between the library and users in most effective manner.
According to it’s nature , reference service may be categorized as two different types,
 i. Ready reference service;
ii. Long-range reference service.
Figure: Types of reference service
  • Ready Reference Service: Ready reference service is reference service finished in a very short time- in a moment if possible. The concepts of ready reference service is based on duration of time. Most ready reference questions are solved in a few minutes, while some take a longer time but seldom more than half-an hour. In case of ready reference service, the reference staff is able to answer the inquiry in a very short duration of of time, may be at immediately. Different reference books are used in ready reference service, such as Encyclopaedia, Dictionaries, Yearbooks, Directories, Biographical dictionaries, Geographical dictionaries, etc.
  • Long-range Reference Service: Long-range reference service in not capable to be rendered immediately. Few long range reference questions take less than half an hour, while some take a whole day and even weeks. In long range reference service, the search of information starts with ready reference services of information and is continued into ordinary books, reports, periodicals, etc. In case, information is not located in the library, then search may be continued into resources of other libraries even carried out to libraries in other parts of the world.

Functions of reference service:

In 1942, The American Library Association (ALA) stated the six functions of reference service:

  1. The supervision function.
  2. The information function.
  3. The guidance function.
  4. The instruction function.
  5. The bibliographic function.
  6. The appraisal function.

1. Supervision function: This function consist of,

  • Proper organization of facilities;
  • Selection of reference materials;
  • Direction of personnel, and
  • Study of the library clientele.

2. The information function: The reference librarian should be prepared to answer all types of questions and should be able to produce source that would answer the questions. Attempts have also been made to classify questions in various ways. Reference librarian should be prepared to give assistance to the enquirer as much as he requires.

3. The guidance function: The reference librarian should be able to give guidance to the readers in the choice of books and other reading materials and should guide them in the location of documents.

4. The instruction function: A reference Librarian should instruct the readers about how to work in the library, the use of catalogue and reference works, the location of materials, etc. For this an orientation programme should be arranged to familiarize the readers with the library practices and procedures.

5. The bibliographic function: The bibliographies in various subjects of interest to the readers, should be prepared by the reference staff, so that the readers are able to know the books and other reading materials in a particular subject.6. The appraisal function: The success in reference service largely depends upon two factors:Possession of right material.Knowledge of how to get the most out of it.

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Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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