Reference service is the delivery of assistance to help library customers meet their information needs. It includes helping patrons use the Library’s various collections and systems, providing reader’s advisory services, answering a wide variety of questions, and assisting patrons with in-depth research. Reference service is provided in some form by staff members at all public service desks, but the scope and complexity of the reference service provided varies among public service departments.
Whenever possible, and within the scope of their individual job descriptions, staff members providing reference service at APL seek to take advantage of “teachable moments” to help customers learn how to use library resources to meet their information needs. In general, library staff will refrain from doing very extensive research or completing homework assignments on behalf of customers; those with information needs that require extensive research will be encouraged to visit the Library in person for an introduction to the relevant library resources. However, the wide variety of individual customer needs, abilities, and circumstances will require staff members to exercise judgment in this area.
Reference services and priorities
All library customers are eligible to receive reference service at Auburn Public Library on an equitable basis. This includes those who live outside of Auburn.
Reference questions asked personally by customers in the building take top priority and are answered first, followed by questions received via telephone, followed by questions received via e-mail, mail, or fax.
If a reference question can’t be answered immediately, Reference Department staff will offer to research the question and call the customer back with additional information. In such cases, a staff member will call the customer back within 24 hours to report on the status of their inquiry.
Library staff members do not provide legal, medical, or financial advice or appraisals of any kind. However, Reference Department staff will refer customers to reputable sources of information or professional services in these areas. Also, when appropriate, Reference Department staff may refer customers to larger or more specialized libraries with collections that are better suited than APL’s to meet specialized or in-depth needs.
To manage the large number of time-consuming requests for genealogy and local history searches received from people at remote locations, the Library offers a Genealogy and Local History Search Service for those who are unable to visit in person. The guidelines for this service describe the searches available and the corresponding fees.
As with all other library services, APL staff members respect the privacy of library customers while providing reference services and keep the nature of individual patrons’ information requests confidential.