Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference or Event Name

Library Assessment Conference

Conference Location

Washington, DC


Purpose: Public service hours for many academic librarians have changed within the last decade. As reference statistics have declined, so have job descriptions changed. We often hear terms like outreach, liaison work, embedded librarianship, consulting hours, scheduled appointments. etc., for what used to be normal desk hours. With a changing service model, comes accountability. How do institutions account for these new forms of work and duties that have replaced traditional service desk hours? How does this feed into performance or merit review?

The purpose of this short paper is to shed light on the roles of librarians at medium-sized universities, including the work of reference librarians, service model trends, and accounting for work that now may be more self driven and office or department-based. Results from a peer survey will be shared.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The library will be surveying peer institutions in order to examine changing trends and how these institutions may now account for librarian hours that may have traditionally been hosted at a reference or service desk. Communication will be directed to department heads (traditionally, head of reference services positions) asking individuals to complete a survey.

Our survey design will be used to gather such information such department size, modes of providing reference or research support, accounting for workloads or distribution loads of librarians, and possible factors or practices for merit.

Potential Findings: Given the decline of in-person reference questions and the growth of more accessible information, we would imagine that a majority of institutions are seeing a rise to offering research services on an appointment basis and the traditional service desk is seen as a more as point for addressing more common service needs (directional, supplies, technical support). Some questions we would like to shed light on are: What are the service model approaches? Are they a mix of appointment-based and public service? How are librarians evaluated for their reassignment of former public service hours? Are there practices in place to ensure equity in the distribution of non-public service duties?

Practical Implications: At the current stage, institutions have either have had long histories of either providing public service or limited service hours. For institutions that have migrated away from a standard reference desk model, we hope the survey results shed light on other factors including staff performance, service outreach effectiveness, task distribution for librarians who are no longer responsible for hosting service hours. While each institution will vary and have different dynamics that influence supporting services, we hope the survey will highlight factors to consider for institutions considering changing a different service model to meet new library demands.