Reference Services Policy
The South Berwick Public Library serves a diverse public with unique individual needs and levels of ability to conduct research independently. At times of peak activity within the library, it is mandatory that rules for providing reference assistance be established.
The Reference Interview – Definition
A reference transaction is an information contact which involves knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of information sources by the library staff. It includes information and referral to materials of all formats, other institutions, or people inside or outside the library, by any form of communication. Directional information or questions about rules or policies are not reference transactions.
The Library Advisory Board and library director of the Library encourage staff of all levels to pursue continuing education opportunities which will enable them to better meet the needs of the library’s patrons. All staff members receive in-house training regarding appropriate responses to patron questions, including reference questions. This training includes reference interviewing techniques, reader’s advisory service, and bibliographic instruction. All staff members are taught to treat each question asked with respect insofar as the level of assistance required and the topic of the question. Names of users and the transactions that occur between users and the staff are confidential and not discussed outside a professional context.
Reference service and materials are available to all regardless of the age, race, sex, social, or economic status of the patron. Reference service and materials are available during all hours the library is open and are provided in response to all forms of inquiry including but not limited to patrons in the library, the telephone, email, and TTY. The reference questions of patrons visiting the library are given the highest priority. All requests for information receive an answer or response within a day if the library is open. Questions that cannot be answered with onsite resources are referred to another agency. Such referrals are verified and/or mediated by library staff.
In the instance of legal, medical, investment, or tax reference questions, the staff may only guide the patron to the material available on the topic of interest. The staff may not evaluate or interpret the information provided nor may the staff define the meaning of terms, offer investment advice, select income tax forms, or serve as a surrogate for a professional in any of the fields listed above. If all materials within the library are beyond the understanding of the patron, the patron will be advised to consult with their professional from the above listed fields for additional information or advice.
Reference materials regardless of format, may not be removed from the library.
Telephone Reference Service
The library provides telephone reference service during the hours of library operation. Priority attention is given to patrons who are in the building and needing assistance. If possible, all information inquiries are handled on a first come-first served basis. If the library staff cannot provide immediate help, patrons wanting service will be contacted as soon as possible.
The library provides a photocopy machine for the patron’s convenience and to protect the library collection. Copyright laws are to be followed by all patrons making photocopies. The library has no responsibility for personal violations of copyright law.
Approved by the Library Advisory Board February 17, 2021