Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2023

Document Type



The colloquially named reference desk at public libraries is the quintessential meeting point between patron and librarian. In fact, the desk “remains a tangible symbol of [the librarian’s] mission and work” (Johnson, 2019, p. 92). However, many researchers have questioned the purpose and value of the desk in the “changing reference landscape” (Cassell and Hiremath, 2018, p. 3). The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to explore this changing reference landscape more in depth, what reference services really are, and to reiterate the distinction between a professional librarian (or information professional) and a paraprofessional. A small amount of research serves to provide a snapshot of this changed landscape. Lastly, the importance of LIS curriculum and service evaluation will be highlighted with specific examples and adaptations for future research.