Reference Service Policy

Policy Statement for Reference Service

The goal of reference service is to provide accurate, timely, impartial and useful information and materials to meet the community’s informational, recreational and educational needs. To this end, the Burlington Public Library will provide reference services overseen by a professional librarian.

Statement of Ethics

All staff members serving the public should recognize the right of library users to receive equitable and unbiased service regardless of the patron’s age, status and the perceived importance of their question. To this end, reference personnel should conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics.

Staff Responsibilities

All library staff are expected to be able to provide basic assistance with end-user level tasks, including:

  • Searching for materials and placing reservations using the online library catalog
  • Using internet search engines to locate basic directory and encyclopedic information
  • Assisting library users in utilizing library technologies, including computers, copiers, and other devices

Personnel designated as a reference support staff members by the Director are also responsible for:

  1. Maintaining a working knowledge of the reference collection and the library collection in general.
  2. Maintaining a working knowledge of reader’s advisory resources.
  3. Maintaining a working knowledge of community affairs, organizations and agencies.
  4. Maintaining an in-depth knowledge of databases available to help patrons with in-depth research questions
  5. Maintaining a working knowledge of different consumer technologies, including smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers.
  6. Developing a robust schedule of informative and entertaining library programming to promote literacy and community engagement.

Referring Questions

If a patron’s questions cannot be answered by sources at the Burlington Public Library or local sources and the patron needs an answer quickly, staff members may contact the reference staff at the system resource library.

It is sometimes necessary to refer a patron to local and/or county social and governmental agencies. Reference staff members may wish to contact that source before referring the patron. Reference staff members should use their discretion when making such phone calls.

Lending Reference Materials

Reference materials may circulate at the discretion of a manager or librarian.

Limitations of Reference Service

Notwithstanding the strong desire to help every library user fulfill their information needs, the library cannot provide extensive individual assistance, including extensive bibliographies, manual assistance with typing and other computer tasks, or assistance in composing or editing manuscripts.

Patrons sometimes ask questions of a medical, legal, financial or consumer-oriented nature. Reference staff members should make every effort to provide impartial and accurate information. Library personnel should never interpret information for a patron. Patrons who have questions concerning the meaning, value or pertinence of medical, legal or financial information should be tactfully referred to an appropriate authority in the field.

Adopted: January 22, 1991
Revised: July 25, 2017

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