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Reference librarians aren't lonely

image: Departments headerI 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.

Far 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 ( 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?

I 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.)

They 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" ( 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.

In 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:;;; and subject specialist addresses at

Sem C. Sutter, AM'73, PhD'82, AM'85
Acting Assistant Director for Humanities & Social Sciences, Joseph L. Regenstein Library

  AUGUST 2000

  > > Volume 92, Number 4

  > >
Good guys finish first
  > >
Edward Hirsch Levi
  > >
U of C Folk Festival
  > >
The prophetic art

  > > Class News

  > > Books
  > > Deaths

  > > Chicago Journal

  > > College Repor

  > > Investigations



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