An (Almost) Librarian’s Reflection on Reference

Reference- n. An act of referring to something (2012, The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed.). As you can see from this definition, when we speak of reference, we mean the actual act of referring to something (i.e. journal article, book review, etc.). But what does this mean to me, specifically? Does it mean that when I recommend a book to my friend, I am referring to that book? Does it mean that when I guide a patron to an encyclopedia that will answer their question, I am referring them to that source? Yes, it means both of those things, and so much more….

Reference is not just the actual act of referring to something, it is also a whole world of library service that enlightens us, teaches us, and makes us better librarians and library patrons. From the very beginnings of reference service, some of the main goals were to “teach people how to use the library and its resources” and “answer readers’ questions“(Green, 1876), something that is still practiced today, although the resources themselves have changed dramatically since Green’s time (Samuel Swett Green, the Father of Reference Services). What this means to me is that I am building on a long-standing tradition of providing reference services to readers of my website, via my Information Portal or to other Reference Librarians, via my Reference Services Evaluation and Plan.

Reference services, while not the oldest library service in existence, are vitally important to all people, all over the world, more so now than ever before in history. With the explosion of printed material since the 1450’s (Gutenberg press), and the advent of the Internet Age, we have seen the plethora of information available to us become unmanageable, there is so much of it. And this is where the Reference Librarian and all the services they offer come into play: these are the men and women on the front lines of serving the patrons in the community, and they are the librarians who are most knowledgeable about sources for almost all information needs. And what they cannot find themselves, they will gladly consult with other librarians and information professionals who can help. By not only committing the act of referring to something, but also having an insider knowledge of what to refer to, our Reference Librarians are the heart and soul of our profession: they guide, nurture and show us the way to the best information sources for our information need.

While I might not have any professional reference experience, my layman’s knowledge that I have gathered so far (and created for use on this website), will hopefully show the world that just because reference is not my specialty, does not mean that I do not have much to contribute to the reference world. My personal viewpoint and the way I perceive the world through the experiences I have led allow me to see reference services in a way that (maybe) they have not been seen before, while at the same time making sure to see them and study them through the eyes of those who have participated in these services before me. Being able to see a service through new eyes allows us the chance to possibly integrate new ways of performing that service to the betterment of all the patrons who use it, plus will add to the growing body of reference literature in the library world.

While I might not be a Reference Librarian (yet, remember that the future is not set in stone), it is my most fervent wish that other librarians and information professionals will look at my site and see that what I have to offer by way of reference service plans, evaluations, and reviews, and that they will use the information they find within to better themselves, their libraries and workplaces, which in turn will benefit the patrons and users of these services, which in the end, is what I set out to do: help as many people as I can with what I know and what I have learned about the world of reference.


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