Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Published in Library Philosophy and Practice (2011) 11 p.


There is no doubt that reference services are changing and that the reference desk needs to change also, in response. In this article, Julie Middlemas argues that the foundations of the reference interaction remain the same regardless of this shift: that a successful reference interview and the need to save the time of the reader/researcher remain the primary functions of that interaction. Steven Deineh then puts forth his case for student-centered reference, which offers the service of intensive collaborative research working with students behind the reference desk. Students will learn hands-on because, although millennials and others of the digital generation have a perceived comprehensive understanding of technology, there is much they do not understand nor use to full advantage. And millennials learn by doing. Finally, Patty Morrison argues that “information up-sell” needs to be part of every reference desk encounter, whether the student is merely asking for directions or has a more in-depth research need. Why this promotion? Simply because, as Steven points out, there is only a perceived knowledge of technology. In sum, this article recommends the following as a new reference service model: conduct an effective and comprehensive reference interview and invite the student behind the desk for an empowering, hands-on, in-depth research experience when appropriate. For those scenarios when it is not appropriate, up-sell or promote what the library has to uniquely offer students that Google cannot.