How do open access sources, tightened budgets, and competition from popular technologies affect how librarians perceive and employ reference resources? How do librarians expect to utilize reference in the future? "The State of Reference Collections," a new SAGE white paper out today, finds that though the definition of reference is changing, this is in part because reference resources now look and feel like other information sources and because other information resources perform the traditional purpose of reference -- answering research questions.
"The future of reference is far from grim despite competition from Google, Wikipedia, and other resources and despite budgetary constraints, because patrons are overwhelmed by the abundance of information," the study author said. "Today, librarians point patrons to reference resources without ever referring to them as 'reference.' This includes article, statistical, and video databases. Librarians see utility in any resource that helps patrons find an answer to their research question."
Elisabeth Leonard, Executive Market Research Manager at SAGE and Former Reference Librarian, conducted the study using a combination of a survey of 482 librarians, several focus groups, and interviews. Her findings include the following:
"Classifying a resource as reference may then seem like an artificial exercise, especially for those librarians for whom traditional reference sources are now part of the circulating collection or are purchased with funds from the nonreference budget," Leonard continued. "Although not all librarians believe that using traditional reference resources is necessary, for those who do, using reference resources is a passionate cause."
This new study is part of a series of white papers undertaken by SAGE for the benefit of the higher education and research communities.
"SAGE is dedicated to navigating the evolution of research alongside instructors and librarians," wrote Stephen Barr, President of SAGE international. "We hope that this new study will serve as a helpful resource for all information professionals serving the changing needs of students and researchers."
Materials provided by SAGE Publications. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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