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The convergence of the twain or titanic collision? Bi and reference in the 1990s' sea of change

James Rettig (Assistant dean of university libraries for reference and information services, Swem Library, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 1 January 1995



It all began a very long time ago, sometime before 1876, that annus mirabilis of librarianship during which the American Library Association was founded, Library Journal debuted, and Samuel Green published in its pages the first article about reference librarianship. And it continues today. In April 1994, an unidentified library school student from the State University of New York at Buffalo queried the participants of the LIBREFL listserv, asking them, “Can you give a summary of the ‘hot’ library reference issues of the week? I'm working on a project for my Reference course, and would like to find out what is REALLY vital to refernce (sic) librarians out there today.” I was tempted to reply that all of that week's “hot” issues were identified in Green's 1876 article. In that article describing the phenomenon we today call reference service, Green touched on issues such as the librarian's obligation to provide information without injecting personal values, the inability of any librarian to know everything, the need sometimes to refer a patron to another information agency, SDI services, the value of proactive rather than passive service, the challenges of the reference interview, and, of course, what has come to be called the “information versus instruction debate.”


Rettig, J. (1995), "The convergence of the twain or titanic collision? Bi and reference in the 1990s' sea of change", Reference Services Review, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 7-20.




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