ALA Midwinter 2012: Round Table Addresses Competing Demands on Reference Staff and Resources

On Saturday morning, representatives from several publishers met with public and academic librarians at ALA Midwinter to discuss trends and practices in reference work today. The panel was moderated by LJ‘s Henrietta Thornton-Verma, Reference Editor; and Francine Fialkoff, Editor-in-Chief.

Joining them were Jennifer Pfau of ABC-CLIO, Stephen Rhind-Tutt of Alexander Street Press, Frank Menchaca of Cengage Learning, Carol Helton of Credo, Brian Duncan of EBSCO, Rebecca Seger of Oxford University Press, Rod Gauvin of Proquest, Rolf Janke of SAGE, and Lisa Nachtigall of Wiley. Librarians Therese Nielsen of Huntington Public Library, NY; Sue Polanka of Wright State University, OH; and Barbara Bibel of Oakland Public Library, CA added the librarian perspective to the conversation.

The group’s lively, wide-ranging discussion addressed issues such as the role of patron-driven acquisition in reference; how today’s librarians deal with competing demands‚ in academic libraries, between humanities and science departments, for example, as the materials for these two groups are priced very differently. The public librarians present, meanwhile, mentioned how they cope with the last several years’ increased demand for materials and classes for unemployed patrons.

Of particular interest to the group were details from LJ and Bowker’s Patron Profiles, a series of studies that survey 2000-plus public library patrons, and that has identified a group we refer to as Power Patrons, people who use their library once a week or more. Discussion around Power Patrons focused on, for example, serving their needs while endeavoring to create the same habits in other library users.

The whole discussion will be documented in an LJ feature later this year, but in the meantime there was one exciting takeaway from the table: all present agreed that there was a great need for librarians and publishers to work together to better market library services to existing and new patrons. Stay tuned; this group has a lot more to say.

Visit LJ‘s ALA Midwinter Meeting News channel for complete coverage of the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.