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Lansing Community College Library

Reference & Instruction Guide: Reference Service Philosophy

Policies, procedures, best practices and training guide, for reference and instruction services.

Definitions of Reference

ALA Reference & User Services Association (RUSA) defines reference services as:

  • Reference Transactions are information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs. Reference transactions do not include formal instruction or exchanges that provide assistance with locations, schedules, equipment, supplies, or policy statements.
  • Reference Work includes reference transactions and other activities that involve the creation, management, and assessment of information or research resources, tools, and services.

Other definitions are also available from:

  • Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
  • National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES)

Proposed update Definition of Reference 2021 to RUSA
RUSA Public Comment Survey for the updated “Definition of Reference 2021”deadline Oct 5, 2021


RUSA Guidelines for Reference Providers

RUSA Guidelines for Reference Librarians include 5 main categories:

  1. Visibility/Approachability
  2. Interest
  3. Listening/Inquiring
  4. Searching
  5. Follow Up

LCC Reference Services Philosophy

Reference Librarians teach rather than answer questions.

  • When possible, LCC Reference Librarians help students define their research needs, choose resources, develop search strategies, and evaluate search results, and assist in understanding citation formats. In the electronic environments of e-mail and virtual reference, librarians strive to instruct, guide, and coach rather than just provide answers.
  • Likewise, rather than doing research for faculty, librarians provide faculty with instruction and information tools they need to conduct their own research.

Reference Librarians get students actively involved.

  • For example, they seat students at computers and guide them through a search rather than performing that search while the student watches.

Reference Librarians are proactive.

  • Reference Librarians unobtrusively seek out students who may need help rather than wait for students to come to them at the Reference Desk.  Be aware of students hesitant about asking for help.  

Reference Librarians provide information, not interpretation, tutoring, or advice.

  • Librarians do not counsel patrons in personal, medical, and legal issues.
  • They also do not proofread papers. If students need writing help refer them to appropriate college resources such as the Learning Commons for writing tutoring services and the Writing Center.