Home Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library Policies Reference and User Instruction Mission

Hillsborough County
Department of Library Services
Policies and Procedures Manual

Subject: Reference and User Instruction Mission

Effective: December 1, 2014

Supercedes: April 1, 2010

Review: 2 Years

  1. Purpose:
    1. The Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System (the “Library”) provides Reference and User Instruction in order to facilitate use of library resources and connect customers to accurate and timely information.
  2. Policy:
    1. Guiding Principles for Staff:
      1. Maintain the customer’s right to confidentiality in accordance with Florida Statutes, Chapter 257.261 and the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics.
      2. Treat the information needs of all customers as serious and legitimate; act upon them with courtesy, respect and without discrimination or value judgments.
      3. Always present an approachable demeanor and assure that the customer needs have priority over other work or the needs of other staff members.
      4. Provide excellence in information service by using appropriate sources, regardless of format.
      5. Provide instruction in the use of library resources and the technology used in accessing these resources.
      6. Promote libraries to the community by presenting informational programs and tours.
      7. Demonstrate a commitment to quality service through ongoing training and independent study.
  3. Procedure:
    1. Provision of Quality Reference and User Instruction:
      1. In order to fulfill the Library reference mission and guiding principles, staff should adhere to the American Library Association’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Services Providers. Quality service begins by demonstrating a positive customer service attitude throughout the reference interview.
    2. Reference and User Instruction Core Competencies:
      1. Library Staff should exhibit the following Communication Skills
        1. Be approachable and ready to engage customers by establishing eye contact. Use a friendly greeting and acknowledge others waiting for service.
        2. Maintain a clutter free, barrier free service desk for visibility and accessibility. Computer monitors, signs, brochure holders, etc. are not to become barriers between staff and customers.
        3. Use the public information area for library business only. Phone calls, conversations, reading or computer/mobile device use of a personal nature are not to take place there.
        4. Demonstrate a high level of interest in the customer’s inquiries. Face the customer, maintain eye contact, and signal an understanding of needs through verbal and non-verbal confirmation, such as nodding of the head. Offer to escort the customer to the stacks and willingly assist them in locating materials.
        5. Routinely rove through the library to offer assistance to customers. Use verbal and nonverbal cues to determine which customers need help, approach and offer assistance. Check back periodically on their progress.
        6. Use Active Listening and analytical skills to determine whether the customer should be redirected to another staff member. In this event, politely and professionally ask the other staff member for their assistance.
        7. Demonstrate sensitivity to diverse populations, age groups and skill levels; recognize their varying needs and be able to assist appropriately.
        8. Communicate in a receptive and cordial manner. Allow the customer to state his information needs before responding. Tactfully restate the customer’s question and ask for confirmation. Use open-ended questioning techniques. Use clarifying questions to refine search strategy and avoid excessive jargon.
        9. Use good listening skills to identify the subject area, the type of information requested (such as bibliographical, critical or factual), the depth and amount of information needed as well as the currency of information needed.
      2. Staff should exhibit competency with Information Sources and Search Skills
        1. Maintain a working knowledge of major reference sources of varying formats, and apply these sources to assisting customers.
        2. Maintain an understanding of the search features of the Library’s ILS, online catalog, digital collections and other resources available through the Online Branch Library.
        3. Understand the structure and organization of information for a variety of disciplines and in a variety of formats
        4. Be able to select the appropriate source(s) for the question as well as the questioner; be able to search with skill, and be able to demonstrate and explain the search to the customer.
        5. Be able to locate and evaluate information resources best suited for answering questions in a variety of subject areas.
        6. Be able to recommend popular materials and informational resources to supplement customer requests.
        7. Follow up to determine if the question has been completely answered.
      3. Staff should exhibit the following User Instruction and Presentation Skills
        1. Be able to provide basic instruction in the use of library equipment: computers, printers/copiers, microfilm reader/scanners, various assistive devices, etc
        2. Be able to inform customers about document delivery options, and be able to instruct in the use of each method: print, e-mail, mail, fax, downloading to a disc or portable storage device and Interlibrary Loan
        3. Be able to present information in a clear and engaging manner.
        4. Be able to provide basic instruction in the use of the library’s online catalog, digital collections, resources available through the Online Branch Library; and related technology including but not limited to Internet searching, e-mail, Microsoft Office products and portable devices used to access the digital collections.
        5. Be able to develop basic instructional material and User Guides for customer use.
      4. Staff should exhibit the following Computer Literacy and Technology Skills
        1. Maintain an awareness of emerging and evolving information technologies and formats.
        2. Have a basic knowledge of computer terminology and the operation and use of common peripherals.
        3. Have an understanding of the structure and workings of the Internet and its component applications: e-mail, World Wide Web, etc.
        4. Have an understanding of the library’s network and its component parts: firewall, filtering, ILS/OPAC, networked printing, computer reservation software, etc.
        5. Be able to perform minor troubleshooting for computers, peripherals and other library equipment.
      5. Staff should demonstrate Commitment to Professional Development
        1. Branch supervisors are responsible for ensuring that reference policies are discussed and reviewed at least once each year, and that staff is encouraged to take advantage of relevant training opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge.
        2. Branch supervisors are responsible for providing reference service policies to all new employees during their initial probationary period and for providing thorough orientation to the library’s reference service expectations.
        3. Take personal responsibility for professional growth by showing a commitment to continuous learning
        4. Stay current with library and information trends by making use of in- house workshops, professional journals and magazines, County classes and computer based training programs, TBLC workshops, etc.
  4. Authority:

    Pursuant to Section 5(1) of Chapter 84-443, Laws of Florida, the Public Library Board has the duty and the responsibility, among others, to serve in a recommending capacity to the Director of Library Services and to the County Administrator in respect to all matters pertaining to the public library.