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Peer reference and the out-of-the-building experience

Brett B. Bodemer (Robert E. Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 4 January 2023

Issue publication date: 9 June 2023




This article conceptualizes essential keys to the future of peer reference in academic libraries as extrapolated through the dual lenses of academic library history in the United States of America and recent experiences of a peer program with prospective and actual out-of-the-building experiences.


A 30,000-foot historical view of the dispositions of space in academic library buildings, collections, spaces, technology and reference provision is integrated with a description of the responses and insights of a peer reference program during the program's prospective and actual out-of-the-building experiences. These components are then analyzed to extrapolate keys to peer reference provision in any learning environment.


Peer reference is a natural extension of the Learning Commons model as developed in many academic libraries. To find optimal success in leveraging the benefits of peer-to-peer learning, program coordinators should keep in mind the social aspects of peer learning and intentionally articulate a framework for service delivery that best matches the modalities of providers, patrons and the information environment. In reviewing training and service practices, coordinators should be particularly on guard for any bias due to traditional reliance on the affordances of a library building and/or physical service point.


This article founds its conclusions in regard to the future of peer reference by contextualizing the evolution and future of such programs in the wider historical context of academic library dispositions of space in support of learning. It proposes a conceptual framework for intentionally matching the modalities of providers, patrons and the information environment.



Bodemer, B.B. (2023), "Peer reference and the out-of-the-building experience", Reference Services Review, Vol. 51 No. 2, pp. 230-246.



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