librarians aren't lonely
was startled to read your assumption
("Editor's Note," February/00) that "the nation's reference librarians
are fast learning the loneliness of the Maytag repairman." The
University Library's reference librarians are actually busier
than ever--so much so that we've recently created four new positions:
two at Regenstein (one in reference and information services and
one in business and economics), one at Crerar, and one at the
D'Angelo Law Library.
from rendering reference librarians obsolescent, the wealth of
resources available on the Web actually makes these information
experts more indispensable than ever to those who have become
adept at finding information on-line, to say nothing of those
experiencing the shock of getting their electronic feet wet. Here
are some of the questions they're asked: Should I use an electronic
or print source for 1960 demographic and market data, or both?
Is there a better (more comprehensive? more reliable?) set of
Shakespeare texts than the ones I found for free at Project Gutenberg?
Which full-text journal databases on the Library homepage (www.lib.uchicago.edu/)
are worth searching for my topic in medical ethics? How can I
use my bibliographic citation software to best advantage in combination
with the on-line catalog? Can you please walk me through an on-line
interlibrary loan order?
should also tell you that our reference librarians--those who
work at the familiar central desks and their distributed subject
specialist colleagues--do more than repair the washer. To extend
your analogy, they are full participants in the Maytag engineering
teams. They scout for and evaluate new databases, assuring that
readers are well-served and Library dollars carefully spent. (Most
of the best sources are, alas, not free--the Library's materials
budget pays for them.)
also compile new resources to meet needs that they have identified
from their interactions with readers. A notable example is the
annotated and interactive database, "Selected Business and Economics
Journals Available Online" (www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/busecon/oja1.html).
They design the content and layout of many of the Library's Web
pages and bring their detailed knowledge of reader expectations
and search behaviors to bear on updates of the on-line catalog.
short, reference librarians are more than ever an integral part
of the Library and the collections and services it offers. Oh,
and one more thing: Unlike the Maytag man, our reference librarians
do E-mail: Reg-Reference@lib.uchicago.edu;
and subject specialist addresses at www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/specialists.html.
C. Sutter, AM'73, PhD'82, AM'85
Director for Humanities & Social Sciences, Joseph L. Regenstein