Reference Librarians and Technical Services Librarians:

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Arizona]On: 18 December 2014, At: 23:09Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Reference LibrarianPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wref20

    Reference Librarians and TechnicalServices Librarians:Marilyn K. Moody aa Head of Technical Services, Folsom Library, RensselaerPolytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, 12180Published online: 17 Mar 2009.

    To cite this article: Marilyn K. Moody (1992) Reference Librarians and Technical ServicesLibrarians:, The Reference Librarian, 17:38, 191-200, DOI: 10.1300/J120v17n38_21

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  • VI. CONNECTIONS WITH THE REST OF THE LIBRARY

    Reference Librarians and Technical Services Librarians:

    Who's Accountable?

    Marilyn K. Moody

    SUMMARY. The relationshio between reference librarians and technical services librarians has' often been strained. In our changing technological and or~anizational environment, it is imperative that referencelibrarians &d technical services librbians share responsi- bility for improving this relationship. One way for this to take place is for individuals to become more "accountable" to their colleagues. This article providcs accountability guidelines for both reference and technical services librarians which, if followed, can result in in- creased communication and a better understanding of the roles, con- cerns. and needs of both reference and technical services librarians.

    INTRODUCTION

    The relationship between reference librarians and technical services librarians has been historically described as shaky, if not rocky. While

    Marilyn K. Moody is Head. Technical Services, Folsom Library, Renssclaer Polytechnic Institute. Troy, NY 12180.

    O 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. 191

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  • I92 ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILllY

    there may have been some improvement in this relationship in recent years, in many libraries the relationship remains an uncomfortable one. While the use of new technology has often been described as having the effect of flattening the organizational structure, blurring departmental lines, or empowering individual staff members, it has not seemed to make it any easier for reference and technical services librarians to communicate effectively with each other or to support each other in working towards their common goals.

    While i t is always dangerous to characterize whole groups of people, my experiences working in both the public and technical services areas in several different libraries has convinced me that lhere often is a difference in how librarians working in one area or the other approach their work. This does not necessarily occur because one sort of personality becomes a reference librarian and another a technical services librarian. Rather this difference seems to stem from the nature of the roles each takes, the dif- ference in the daily work and issues they struggle with, and the difference in priorities and goals. Each librarian, no matter what their position, ex- pects a certain degree of "accountability" from their colleagues in other areas, and are disappointed when they do not receive it in the form and manner in which they expect it. The misunderstanding of the actions needed to achieve this "accountability" can be especially acute between reference librarians and technical services librarians. As a way of illustrat- ing the kind of communication which needs lo take place, the guidelines described later in this article give examples of the areas where reference librarians and technical sewiccs librarians may differ in heir accountabili- ty expectations.

    IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY ISSUES

    Why is this issue of accountability so important? Why can't reference librarians and tcchnical services librarians continue to operate in separate departments and spheres, grumbling to themselves when they fail to live up to each other's expectations? Why is it now imporlant to make these issues (and other similar ones) clear to one another?

    The environment in which we are working has changed. The first area having a great impact is in the area of automation and the use of new technologies. This use has blurred the boundaries between reference and technical services librarians and requires them to work together to use the new technologies effectively and efficiently. This type of environment may see many librarians taking on multi-functional roles, some of which

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  • Connections with the Rest of the Library 193

    will include a combination of traditionally technical services and reference services functions.' Far more impact is being felt, however, by those li- brarians whose work remains primarily as a technical services librarian or a reference librarian. In order to do their work effectively in the new technological environment, librarians must understand the work of and issues surrounding their counterparts in other areas. While the idea of the renaissance librarian who can comfortably switch from original cataloging to reference expert at the CD-ROM station is appealing, many librarians are struggling mightily to remain experts in just one area. It is not unreal- istic, however to ask for the renaissance librarian in terms of one who understands the needs of the users, the importance of different types of services for the users, a broad understanding of the impacts of new library technologies, and an apprecialion of the bibliographic control slructures used in libraries?

    Secondly, many libraries are shifting their organizational structures to ones that can Uuive in a team environment. In order to work effeclively in the team environment, librarians need to understand each other's jobs and roles much more clearly. It is impossible to work at solving problems and implementing new ideas together without a basic understanding of each other's concerns and future plans and goals. The team environment approach demands increased communication and cannot be implemented successfully without it. It also requires librarians who understand the big piclure of what is happening not only in their own library and organiza- tion, but in the profession in general. Only those who take the time to understand one another's viewpoints will be able lo successfully interact and work in this type of team environment.

    How is this underslanding to be achieved? What paths might be taken to achieve this accountability? While I am suggesting some personal ac- countability guidelines for reference and technical services librarians to follow, there are also additional ways to promote the broader viewpoint and understanding of each other's roles. One of these areas is in the cross- training of librarians to work in more than one area? This can help to achieve the kind of commu~calion and understanding that is needed. Librarians in dual-assignment roles who work in both areas can also help increase understanding of issues for both areas. Staff development pro- grams may also be uscd to increase understanding of one another's job roles, using both the detailed hands-on approach, as well as programs dealing wiih broader, more philosophical issues.' Other administrators are calling for a more dramatic change in the entire organizational structure of the library as a way of integrating public and technical services staffs.'

    Use of these accountability guidelines is one way an individual can

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  • 194 ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

    work to improve the reference librariadtechnical services librarian rela- tionship. Using the accountability guidelines requires a change in both an individual's attitude and actions. The guidelines also are best used by the individual with the self-confidence to confront others and clearly commu- nicate concerns when these guidelines are not being followed. These guidelines are not meant to be comprehensive, and some of the items border on the mundane. Yet, it is these type of things that often irritate and exasperate people, and ullimately wear at working relationships. In most respects these accountability issues are issues involving communica- tion. They also involve respect and trust and require sensitivity to the other librarian's role.

    ACCOUNTABILITY GUIDELINES: FOR REFERENCE LIBRARIANS

    1. Remember that the Reference Department is not the only area of the library which provides user sewice. Providing reference service is one of the most visible functions of the library. And while it is inarguably one of the most important services a library offers, many other areas of the library are involved in making it possible to offer reference service. Tech- nical services librarians also see their role as a major and important one in providing service to library users. Just because it is not as a direct of a one, does not lessen the importance of that role. Management of the acquisition, cataloging, automation, and other processing activities of the lib;ary by technical Grviccs librarians is an integral of what makes basic user services oossible. Technical services librarians and reference librarians are workiig together to provide service.

    2. Understand the basic technical sewicesfunctions of your library and how your actions impact them. Technical services librarians expect refer- ence librarians to have a good understanding of basic processiig-how items are added, or withdrawn, or how bibliographic records are added to the online catalog. That expectation is based on two lines of reasoning. Fist, how can a reference librarian fully help users of the library if they don't understand these processes and the points along the way where procedures may affect helping a user? Secondly, an understanding of the technical services functions helps the reference librarian avoid making errors which are timeconsuming to correct and poorly serve the user. For example, consider the impacl when a technical services librarian discovers that a reference librarian decided to physically transfer 10 years of the World Al~nanac from the reference area to storage, but neglected to follow D

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  • Connections with the Rest of the Library 195

    the procedures necessary to change the library's bibliographic records. Certainly this k i d of action doesn't impress technical services librarians as a measure of accountability, but more importantly it impacts on users of the library trying to locate materials.

    3. Realize that people and resources cost money, and have some idea of how much they cosl. Many reference librarians do not work extensively with budgets and staffing requirements in the same way that technical services librarians are almost always involved. Suggestions for improving or changing technical services procedures coming from reference librari- ans may not be based in a good understanding of staffiig and resource requirements. In the shrinking budgetary environment which many librar- ies are now placed, realistic assessments of what the library can and can- not do are needed. Reference librarians can help in their relationship with technical services librarians by becoming sensitive to budgetary and staff- ing concerns.

    4. Don't discount the value of the work of other librarians and library staE This is a basic concept, but one that is a sensitive matter. Technical services librarians often feel that olher librarians discount the value of their own work and don't appreciate the work that is done by the techni- cal services staff they manage.

    5. Develop a broad understanding of the issues technical services li- brarians are concerned with. Most "technical services" issues will affect reference librarians as well at some point. For example, with Ule increas- ing use of automation, decisions regarding the online catalog need careful attention from reference librarians. For those libraries who have mounted more comprehensive information systems which also include databases and local information files, this attention is even more crucial. The dis- tinction between technical services issues and reference issues has become increasingly indistinct, and this trend will continue. Ignoring "technical services" issues will put the reference librarian at an increasing disadvan- tage when it comes to carrying out their own work, and will frustrate technical services librarians who need reference librarians to conlribute their knowledge and experiences in order to design and implement these information systems.

    6. When you've thoughr of a good idea, rake ten minutes ro think about what nee& lo happen for it to take place. How is Technical Services involved? Write down lhe steps and procedures you think will need to happen for this idea to take place. Who will need to do them? How many of the steps and procedures involve technical services staff? How long do you think it will take to carry out this idea? What existing procedures will need to be changed? Technical services staff sometimes feel that ideas are

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