Types of Reference and Information Service

Types of Reference and Information Service: The emergence of the internet extends the reference librarian's ability to provide diverse and complex services and potentiality to show their real professional expertise to meet the demand put on them.

a) James I Wyer Theories: In considering the scope of reference services, James I Wyer proposed three theories of reference service i.e conservative, moderate and liberal. Samuel Rothstein called them minimum, middling, and maximum.

i) Conservative: It includes giving occasional personal assistance to the inexperienced and bewildered reader. It limits the help to pointing the way only and so it is traditional in nature.

ii) Moderate: The moderate reference service goes beyond providing mere instruction to actually helping the reader in using the book or finding the document and facts, etc.

ii) Liberal: It includes the provision of the full and direct supply of reliable information to the readers.

b) Edward B. Reeve’s Categories: Edward B. Reeve and others have categorized the activities of reference staff into the following five categories on the basis of related functions.

i) Instructional Activities: These are characterized by explicit teaching function.

ii) Skill Maintenance Activities: These are related to up-dating the knowledge of reference tools.

iii) Patron Service Activities: This deals with providing information to the users of the reference service.

iv) Maintenance Activities: These are house keeping activities.

v) Surrogate Activities: These are those activities which the reference staff perform on behalf of the other departments / sections of the library.

c) Dr. S. R. Ranganathan’s Classification: Dr. S. R. Ranganathan identified two aspects of reference work - Ready reference service and Long range reference service.

i) Ready Reference Service: Most of the ready reference services are of the nature of fact finding types that can be finished in a very short time – in a moment if possible. The librarian generally uses reference book for providing such kind of services. The need of ready reference services arises from the fact of the complex nature of a reference book, its artificiality, and arrangement of information. The eminent person, foreign dignitaries or scholars generally approach for such type of services. Sometimes some regular customers also need the fact finding reference service because of shortage of time on their part.

ii) Long Range Reference Service: The long range Reference Service is based on consulting every possible source of information to arrive at the required information; as such, it is not possible to render this type of service immediately. The time needed may range from half an hour to weeks. The search in the long range reference service starts at the reference books and then goes to the ordinary books, pamphlets, reports, articles in periodicals, etc. If the information is not available in the library then the search can even go to other local libraries and occasionally to the other libraries in the country. The long range reference service provided today can become the ready reference service tomorrow, as by this time the reference librarian will be able to locate the material quickly from his past experience.  Slowly, the scope of long range reference service started expanding. Now bibliographical service, referral service, translation service, etc are considered long range reference services.

d) American Library Association’s Categorization: In 1942, the American Library Association undertook a series of library job analysis. This association has stated the following six functions of Reference Service

i) Supervision Function: This function consists of the proper organization of facilities, reference section, selection of reference materials, direction of personnel, and study of the library clientele.

ii) Information Function: There should be an Information Desk where enquiries are received and routed to proper section. The Reference Librarians should be prepared to answer all types of questions and should be able to produce the sources that would answer the questions.

iii) Guidance Function: The Reference librarian should be able to recommend a good book for respective fields. He should be able to give guidance to the readers regarding higher education, career related information or profession or vocation. He can also give guidance to the readers in the location of the document, in the choice of books and other reading materials.

iv) Instruction Function: The Reference librarian should instruct the readers about the working of the library, the location of the material, the use of the catalogue card, the reference book, etc. An initiation or orientation programme should be arranged to familiarize the readers with the library practices and procedures.

v) Bibliographic Function: There should be a preparation of bibliographies of interest to the readers so that they are able to know about the books and other reading materials required for their respective subjects.

vi) Appraisal Function: The libraries should possess the right kind of materials and reference collections and the staff should be able to get the most out of it.

1. General Categorization of Reference and Information Service: The focal point of Reference Service is answering questions posed by the library user. Based on the activity that are performed to meet the user demand, the Reference and Information service can be categorised as follows:

a) Instructional: Instruction in using the library and library resources (bibliography, encyclopaedia, OPAC), assisting the end user to locate the appropriate material within and outside the library, etc. are an important function associated with the Reference and Information Service of a library. Questions that range from as simple as "Where are the bound volume?" or "Where is the catalog?" to research questions that may take hours or even days to properly answer are to be dealt with in this section.

b) Referral Service: It directs enquirers to a source of information which may be an organization or an individual expert. Generally, when a library or information centre does not have the material and cannot obtain it from the sources but it knows the exact location of the document / information, then it can refer the user to the sources of information.

c) Information Scouting: Information scouting service consists of keeping abreast of who has what information and where. Then it can refer the request to the appropriate person and place in the organization or outside it or both. Information scouting is an extended form of referral service.

d) Citation Verification Service: Citation Verification Service is intended to verify the citations/references and authentication of bibliographical details of books, articles, reports, theses and other published materials obtained from sources other than the authoritative indexing and abstracting services offered by reputed publishers and licensed database producers. The library patrons need this type of service for the preparation of assignments, dissertations, theses, and project proposals.

e) Literature Search / Bibliographical Survey: Literature search may be defined as a systematic search for literature in any form on a particular topic. It forms the very first step of a research pursuit. Otherwise, if a research work is duplicated the valuable time, money and labour of the researcher will be wasted. The literature search is also needed to present the latest available facts in writing articles or topic on any theme. Special library and information centres generally provide literature search facilities to its patrons on demand. Later, the result of the literature search is  circulated to the enquirers. A sub type of this service is also known as Database Search Service (DBSS), which intends to obtain information critical to the proposed or ongoing dissertations, theses, post-doctoral research and other project work by consulting different online and offline data bases.

f) Preparation of Bibliographies, Indexes and Abstracts on Certain Minute Subject: If demands come from the research scholar or a research team member of the parent organization, the library prepares the bibliographies, indexes and abstract for him/her to meet the demand. It offers the bibliographies or reading lists on diverse topics relevant to the proposed or ongoing dissertation work, doctoral and post-doctoral research. The compilation of bibliographies is the end product of a literature search. From the bibliographies, the users can find out all the materials on a given subject at a time. It helps the user in selecting the required information by saving time.

g) Translation Service: Translation is a process of transforming precisely the information contents of the text in one language into another language. The former is called the Source language and the latter is called as the Text language. Translation service helps overcome the language barrier.

In the field of science and technology, the National Translation Centre, Chicago, America, International Translation Centre, Delft, Netherlands, British Library Lending Division, Boston and in India, INSDOC, New Delhi have foreign language translation service for all the individuals and organizations, who cannot afford the expensive in-house translation facilities. In case of online, whenever a search result lists a relevant resource in another language, one can check out AltaVista's translation feature. With this service, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese websites are translated to English (and vice versa). One can also try with Google Translation to meet this purpose.

h) Interlibrary Loan Request: Interlibrary loan (ILL) is a cooperative activity and a narrower form of interlibrary loan service. In theory, it is capable of expanding the walls of the library to encompass all the world's library collections. The ILL concept is expanded by UNESCO's Universal Availability Publications Program (often called UAP). UAP has the goal of making any publication available to any person anywhere in the world. ILL has practical limits that make its scope smaller but still its potential of expanding customers' access to other libraries' collections is great. The material obtained from ILL may be delivered through different means and avenue (physically, making photocopy or printing, scanning) based on the need of the user.

            Processing interlibrary loan request from other library and delivering the material through email / fax / speed post is another duty of the library reference staff.

i) Consultancy Service: Consultant can be defined as “an expert who gives professional advice usually on payment basis” and consultancy can be defined as “an organization that provides professional or organization expert advice on payment basis”. In the industrial sector the consultants play a vital role by providing information & advice on production, export, import etc. “Information Consultant” is a term used for those persons or firms involved in various activities including library or information centre design, database design, records management, hardware & software selection & training, etc. The library and information science professionals can effectively discharge their duties as information consultants for various organizations as well as individuals but to perform this duty they should have vast practical experience and in-depth subject knowledge. In this connection the following points are to be noted:

i) Tools: Information consultants have their own unique set of tools, e.g. bibliographies, search and meta search engines, databases, reference collection, etc. The consultants get their work done with the help of these sets of tools, a particular combination & configuration of specialized equipment technique & style in addition to their knowledge base as the organizer of world information to get their job done.

ii) Benefits from Information Consultant: The importance of information consulting profession is directly related with the advancement in micro-computer technology and information explosion in print as well as digital environment. Consulting the information consultant can give four benefits to the clients. These are-

*  It provides objective independent advice in regard to political, religious and other matter;

* To take the help of consultants can be highly cost-effective because money can be saved by not going through the vast number of documents and by procuring them and getting the required information;

* The consultant has the necessary knowledge and skill;

* They are easy and convenient but the funding of the organization makes it difficult to employ them for a long or short term basis in the organization.

iii) Services: Services rendered by consultants and consulting organization mostly fall within the scope of technical enquiry service, feasibility studies, reviewing some technologies, software, evaluating technologies, marketing of the products, market survey, designing new databases, software to be used in information processing, storage or retrieval, system analysis & management, advice on collection development, doing cataloguing, editorial services like indexing, abstracting, etc.

j) Information Broker Service: An information broker (IB) is “an individual or organization who on demand seeks to answer questions using all sources and who is in business for a profit”. They are those individuals or firms who are so professional and experienced enough in their lines that they can gather the requested information with a computer and a telephone within a few minutes or hours. An IB may not simply be a librarian, or simply one who "goes online" and searches for the answers to questions and problems of the patron; or he isn't someone who "has all the answers".

            The Association of Independent Information Professionals, the first professional association devoted to information brokers, was formed in Milwaukee in 1987. The profession has its roots in 1937 when librarians and other information professionals formed an organization called the American Society for Information Science and Technology in an attempt to establish their professional identity separate from public libraries.

i) Tools: IBs use a combination of online, offline, and physical search techniques depending on the clients' needs. Every assignment is different and the IB determines the appropriate method of obtaining the clients' requested information, while remaining within the clients' budget. Once all the required information is located and retrieved, the IB then cleans up the raw information and presents it in the manner most appropriate for his/her client. This may mean summarizing the information or verifying the correctness of it.

ii) Importance: If anyone had a major health problem they would not attempt themselves to solve it. They would seek the services of the appropriate professional (a doctor in this case). So, just a person would use an attorney for legal work or a doctor for medical work, they use an Information Broker for access to the needed information. A great impetus for the growth of information broker has come from the recognition that knowledge is a business and information is a commodity and the fact that many people simply are not aware of many of the avenues available to find the needed information. People can locate information in many cases, but it is the experienced IB that knows and has access to more avenues of information retrieval than the average individual or firm. After all, this is the IBs' specialty.

iii) Services: Information broker helps in getting the appropriate information by the end users. It is a cost effective and time saving mechanism. The common uses for the information brokers include market research, patent searches, and any other type of information research, preparation of report on any subject, and so on.

2. Let Us Sum Up: Previously, personal assistance was provided on a part-time and occasional basis. Increased demand for the services resulted in reference work becoming a specialized function. It eventually gained the status of a separate department in libraries. Personal contact with the client and explaining the policies and services of the library can create a great interest of the reader for the library. Personal appearance of the member of the library staff in front of the groups and individual is also helpful in this regard.

Currently, reference departments in public, academic, and school libraries attempt to offer at least moderate levels of reference and information service in all areas of its scope. It helps the users find information for them, teach and instruct them how to use library resources and how to do library research and by this way increase the popularity of the library and its support by the library users. Departmental, professional school and research institute libraries now tend to offer reference and information service of such a quality and depth that it approaches that of a special library.

The Reference librarian is well aware of the vastness of the world of knowledge and the varieties of intricacies of the information required by the reader at different level. So, he can do much more for his reader. He can set the information seekers in the right track.