Reference Evaluation: A Three-Step Approach—Surveys, Unobtrusive Observations, and Focus Groups

Elaina Norlin

Abstract

Traditional reference service, where the librarian gives the patron the right or wrong answer to a question, has slowly begun to change. With the emergence of electronic resources, digitalization, Web resources, and full text, many students need more of a consultation on where to get started than on which option is correct. Librarians at the University of Arizona Libraries strive to help students gain user sufficiency and information literacy. When on the reference desk, they tend to teach rather than do the work for the students. As the libraries are customer centered, it was decided to conduct an evaluation of its reference services. The evaluation involved using a combination of surveys, focus groups, and unobtrusive observation worksheets with a small sample of students. The results were very meaningful.

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