Reference Services Policy
Memorial Hall Library Mission
Memorial Hall Library's mission is to
be an exceptional and innovative public
library for the Andover community. The
library provides materials in a wide
variety of formats, as well as the
space, technology, programs, and
staffing essential to providing 21st
century public library service.
Mission of Reference Department
It is the mission of the Reference
Department to effectively meet the goals
of the library's mission statement by
providing quality informational
resources and services for our users.
Reference service is provided by the
Memorial Hall Library reference staff
when the library is open. The Reference
Desk will be staffed at all times by
professionally trained librarians. The
staff will provide the best service
possible through the resources available
and through collaboration with fellow
staff members who have specialized
knowledge and skills.
Purpose of Reference Policy
- To describe the services and
resources which are offered by the
- To set standards and guidelines
that ensure excellence in reference
- To provide a philosophical
framework for staff that confirms the
library's commitment to excellence in
Statement of Objectives
- To provide reference service to
all library users. To select, acquire, and organize
sources of information, both
traditional and electronic, to meet
the changing needs of library users.
- To select, acquire, and organize
sources of information, both print
and electronic, to meet the changing
needs of library users.
- To identify and promote the
information needs of all users in
- To ensure that library users
receive a consistently high level of
- To identify a patron's specific
informational needs through a
reference interview and fill those
needs by using the resources
- To utilize the expertise of
fellow staff librarians.
- To provide instruction for the
use of library resources.
- To cooperate with other
community agencies and organizations
in their effort to serve the
- To utilize the expertise of
other agencies and organizations to
obtain the best information to
accurately answer questions.
- To refer patrons to appropriate
agencies or organizations when
Reference Collection Development
The emphasis of the reference
collection has shifted from print to
online sources. Databases and other
electronic resources cover a more
complete scope and have the advantage of
more frequent updates. Print sources
must be replaced when new editions with
more current information. Also,
currently people look to online sources
for their information.
The shift to online resources follows
the Libraryís community mission. Book
shelves can be replaced with seating
thus expanding the space for public use.
The Reference staff will read
professional reviews of reference
materials and make recommendations for
purchase. The authorís competency, the
currency of the material, and the source
of the information are important
considerations for selection. The
Coordinator of Information Services
makes the final decision on which
materials are suitable for the reference
- All Reference Librarians will
read the "Reference Book" section of
Journal and make
- The Coordinator of Reference
Services will read the "Reference
Books Bulletin" in
and make suggestions.
- Databases will be selected to
cover areas of patron interest
including, but not restricted to,
literature, foreign language,
genealogy, biography, and
periodicals. The same professional
literature that reviews print
materials review databases. Ideas
for new databases also come from
discussions with colleagues during
professional committee meetings.
When a database is of interest to
the reference staff, a trial is
requested from the vendor for
- The Reference Department will
maintain a list of
Sites on the library web page for
the public and to use when answering
- Materials will be weeded from
the collection when the information
is no longer the latest available on
the subject, the print volume is in
poor condition, or a database is
purchased that covers the subject.
Reference staff members serve as the
link between resources and the patron.
As such, it is important that staff
- Highly proficient in using both
print and electronic resources.
- Skilled in the technology needed
to use electronic resources.
- Knowledgeable about the town of
Andover and its government.
- Open and approachable, friendly
- Able to communicate effectively
with all library users.
- Discreet in the handling of
questions that might be confidential
- Impartial in dealing with all
- Able to exercise good judgment
both in the interpretation of policy
and in the handling of exceptional
- Able to instruct the public in
the use of print and electronic
- Able to evaluate websites and
use only those found to be
- Skilled in the interviewing
process in order to aid patrons in
formulating their specific
- Willing to seek continuing
education opportunities, including
workshops and conferences approved
by the Library Director.
- New staff members will receive
an orientation to Memorial Hall
Library and to the Reference
Reference staff all have additional
areas of responsibility besides
answering questions and instructing
General Guidelines for Desk Service
- Service to the public receives
priority over any other duties.
Library users should be confident
that the primary purpose of a
reference librarian is to assist
- The public is served on a first
come, first serve basis. People
calling the library are helped in
sequence. Callers will be asked if
they would like to wait, to call
back, or to be called back before
being put on hold. Patrons
approaching the desk will be
informed that they will be helped as
soon as possible.
- Reference staff is on-call
during scheduled off desk time to
assist at the reference desk when
Statistics are gathered on a
quarterly basis in January, March, June,
If a patron is exhibiting
inappropriate library behavior, or if a
patron is hurt in the library, the name,
telephone number, address, and a summary
of the incident will be sent to the
Assistant Director to be recorded in the
Incomplete Reference Transactions
Although every effort is made to
complete questions immediately, some can
remain at the end of a shift or day.
Unfinished questions are turned over to
incoming staff. A patron will be advised
if more than one day is needed to
complete the question or if the question
has been referred to another source.
Staff members will consult with
colleagues if they need assistance with
Referrals to Other Libraries
If needed materials are located at
another library, the staff member will
verify that the resources are available
for use. A call to have a book held at
another library is appropriate.
Interlibrary Loan requests both for
books and articles are submitted through
the Memorial Hall Library web page.
Information should be verified before
placing a request.
To give the most accurate and
authoritative answers possible, staff
members will avoid personal opinions,
philosophy, or evaluations; rather they
will rely upon information based on
accurate printed or electronic sources.
The source of the answer will always be
cited. The opinion of staff members,
even if requested, will not be given as
Instruction and Orientation Services
Instruction and orientation for
services provided by the library are an
integral part of library service.
Patrons will be given basic instruction
in using the library catalog, online
databases, the Internet, and answer
basic word processing and computer
Formal tours are offered to school
groups, organizations, and other
The amount of time devoted to a
question is at the discretion of the
Specific Reference Desk Service
- Reference transactions are
information consultations in which
reference staff recommend,
interpret, evaluate, and use
information resources to help others
meet their particular information
- Reference interviewing
techniques are utilized to determine
the specific need of the patron.
- Direct service provides the
patron with the information
requested, while instructional
service is designed to teach the
patron independent use of library
resources. Reference service,
whether direct or instructional,
provides accurate and prompt
information to the public.
- Reference staff members will
assist patrons at every level of the
reference transaction, if the patron
- This may require
accompanying the patron to the
computer catalog to explain its
use, or physically locating the
materials for the patron.
- In the event that the staff
member is unable to accompany
the patron to the stacks area,
it is important to remind the
patron to check back with a
reference librarian, if the
material cannot be located.
- If a patron has a lengthy or
complex request and other patrons
need assistance, it may be necessary
to begin the search process and ask
the patron to check back later, in
order to be sure the patron finds
the information needed. If the
librarian is not able to find an
answer, consultation with other
colleagues is appropriate.
Additional staff can be summoned to
help when several people are waiting
Telephone reference will be handled
in the same sequence and manner as
- Item checks will be done to
confirm that titles are on the
shelf. The books are held at the
- If the desk is busy or if
multiple titles are requested, staff
will offer to call the patron back
when the titles are found.
- If the answer to the question
seems too involved to relate easily
over the telephone, the librarian
may suggest that the patron come to
- Information may be faxed to a
patron. A maximum of thirty pages is
suggested, although left to the
discretion of the librarian.
- If a question is answered using
a web site, the librarian can email
the link to the patron, print the
information and hold it at the
Reference Desk, or send the print
out through the mail.
- When a staff member must
transfer a call to another
department, the caller will be told
where the call is being transferred
Electronic Reference -- Email, chat
The reference desk email,
firstname.lastname@example.org, is checked at least
once per four-hour desk shift. If a
question cannot be answered within that
shift, the patron is notified of the
delay and is given an expected time for
Chat and Text Reference
Reference questions that are received
through chat or by text message and not
answered live should be followed up
within 24 hours.
Fax, Mail, Electronic Requests
It is the library's practice to
respond to all reasonable reference
inquiries received by mail, fax or
electronically. If the question involves
significant research, the reference
librarian may suggest that the patron
visit the library for further
Specific Reference Question
- Questions related to school
assignments will be treated like any
other request for reference
assistance. Every effort will be
made to satisfactorily answer a
student's questions and provide the
sources for information and the
instruction needed to use those
- If a student has a printed
school assignment, the librarian
should ask permission to copy the
assignment, and then pass the copy
on to the teen librarians, who will
develop a list of resources that
answer the question.
- Andover teachers are encouraged
to use the "Just for Teachers" form
on the teen web site to provide
advanced notice for assignments and
to schedule tours and visits.
Contest questions will be approached
with the same guidelines and time limits
as any other type of reference question.
The staff will not interpret contest
- The staff will help patrons
locate objective consumer product
information using online magazine
Consumer Reports Online,
- Short published consumer ratings
will be read over the phone.
- The staff does not offer
personal opinions recommending one
product over another.
Book, Antique and Art Appraisals
Patrons will be referred to
appropriate reference sources,
consultants, or experts. Staff members
will never give a personal appraisal of
the value of an object.
Genealogical and Local History
- Staff members will provide
general assistance in genealogical
research, and guidance in locating
items in our Andover Room
- Patrons may accompany staff to
the Andover Room to choose
resources, but may not remain in the
- Identification is required for
the use of materials from the
- Staff members will not engage in
actual genealogical research for
- Staff members can refer patrons
to online genealogy resources,
Ancestry Library Edition,
Massachusetts History Online,
American Ancestors, and our
collection of genealogy CD-ROMs.
- Help in locating materials may
be requested from the Andover Room
- Genealogy searches will not be
done over the telephone. Patrons
calling long distance will be
requested to mail or email their
request to the Andover Room
Librarian. Research will be limited
to residence verification and
locating of obituaries when the
death date is provided. Referrals to
Andover Historical Society will be
given when appropriate.
Compilations and Extensive Research
Requests for and/or completion of
lengthy research are not considered a
traditional role of the public reference
librarian. Patrons needing extensive
bibliographies, lists, statistics, or
research will be directed to the
appropriate resources and offered as
much assistance as staff time allows.
Medical, Legal and Tax Questions
The library does not provide advice
in the areas of medicine, law, and
- Information from
authoritative sources such as
the CDC, Medlineplus, the Mayo
Clinic, and WebMD will be used
to find medical information for
patrons. Brief information can
be given over the telephone.
Printouts of more extensive
information can be mailed or
emailed to patrons.
- Complicated legal searches
will not be undertaken, nor will
personal interpretations of
legal matters be offered.
- Referrals will be made to
the State Trial Court Libraries.
- We stock basic Massachusetts
and Federal tax forms. If
patrons request a form that we
do not stock, we will print the
appropriate form and
instructions from the IRS and
Massachusetts Department of
Revenue web site.
- If more information is
required, the patron will be
given contact information for
the IRS or to the Massachusetts
Department of Revenue.
Loan of Reference Materials
- Reference books may be checked
out at the discretion of the
reference librarian on duty.
- No individual volumes of a set
or heavily used title will be
allowed to circulate.
- Staff will verify that the
patron has a valid library card in
Classes are offered by Memorial Hall
Library staff on a one-on-one basis. To
request a class patrons can fill out the
online form on the library web site, or
make a direct request at the Reference
Eleanor Sathan, Coordinator of
the Memorial Hall Library Board of
Trustees, October 2011