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Is the need for mediated reference service in academic libraries fading away in the digital environment?

Aditi Bandyopadhyay (Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, USA)
Mary Kate Boyd-Byrnes (Long Island University, Brookville, New York, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 14 November 2016

5868

Abstract

Purpose

Academic libraries are experiencing numerous changes in their services due to high demands for digital resources and changes in users’ information needs and expectations. Many academic library users give preferences to Google, Google Scholar and other search engines on the internet when they search for information. As reference transactions are decreasing in many academic institutions, this paper aims to investigate the continuing need for mediated reference services in the technology-driven environment in academic libraries.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors have conducted a literature review to document and analyze the current trends in reference services in academic libraries. They have examined the relevant published literature through a series of reflective questions to determine whether the demise of mediated reference services is imminent in academic libraries. While this literature review is by no means an exhaustive one, the authors have provided a fairly comprehensive representation of articles to synthesize an overview of the history, evolution, and current trends of reference services in academic libraries.

Findings

This paper clearly demonstrates the importance of human-mediated reference services in academic libraries. It reinforces the need for skilled, knowledgeable professional librarians to provide effective and efficient reference services in a digital environment.

Practical implications

This paper provides a comprehensive overview of current trends in reference services in academic libraries and analyzes the merits and demerits of these trends to establish the need for mediated reference services in academic libraries. The arguments used in this paper will be useful for library and informational professionals as validation for the need to hire skilled, knowledgeable reference librarians to provide reference services in a digital environment.

Originality/value

This paper critically looks at the current trends and practices in reference services through the published literature to determine the future need for mediated reference services in academic libraries. It offers important insights to demonstrate why professional librarians’ skills, knowledge and expertise are essential to provide efficient reference services in the digital age.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank their colleague Professor Janet Wagner for her help and valuable comments to improve the manuscript.

Citation

Bandyopadhyay, A. and Boyd-Byrnes, M.K. (2016), "Is the need for mediated reference service in academic libraries fading away in the digital environment?", Reference Services Review, Vol. 44 No. 4, pp. 596-626. https://doi.org/10.1108/RSR-02-2016-0012

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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