While at the NYLA conference, I was able to interview the director of Livonia Public Library, Frank Sykes, for my reference class. My assignment was to learn how reference services work at his library, including modes of delivery, assessment and levels of service provided. We also discussed his recommendations on how to stay current with reference trends and other general observations he has.
Similar to getting to Carnegie Hall, Frank’s recommendation to become good at reference is “practice, practice, practice.” Just like any other program or application, you have to become familiar with it. Databases have different interfaces and various ways to search for a desired result. Reference is also a field where the professional has to stay on top of their game. Research, webinars, and list-servs are all ways to be informed of new databases and research methods.
Frank’s goal is to provide more specific, local information to his patrons in the next few years. He feels that small public libraries will be focusing on reference questions in local history and genealogy, local and county jobs and local school projects in the future, as this is what they can answer that the internet search engines cannot.
It is nice to hear of the prominence of genealogy and local history questions in public libraries, as this gives me more options to look into once I start my job search. Although there may not be a specific department, the knowledge that I will get to work with people on family history related topics in reassuring.