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Reference Policy

The mission of the Tinley Park Public Library is to give to the citizens of our community access to quality cultural, educational, informational, and recreational materials, programs, and services. This endeavor includes the provision of reference service at all times when the library is open.  Reference service is provided impartially and confidentially to all patrons regardless of age, race, or sex.

The library works to provide timely, accurate, and useful information for all community residents.

The Adult Reference and Youth Services departments are managed by full-time librarians who have earned Master’s Degrees in Library Science from institutions accredited by the American Library Association.  The managers are responsible for the work of all professionals and paraprofessionals in their respective departments.

One of the principal duties of reference librarians serving at the Adult and Youth Services Reference desks is to answer our patrons’ informational questions.  To accomplish this, staff members conduct reference interviews, instruct patrons in the use of reference materials, help patrons to find appropriate materials in print or electronic format, and, when determined necessary, refer questions to off-site sources or agencies.

The reference staff also provides readers’ advisory service.  The staff should be familiar with print and electronic sources to assist them in this endeavor.

The reference librarians, under the guidance of their manager, are responsible for selecting and ordering reference, nonfiction, periodical, audiovisual, and fiction materials and for evaluating and weeding collections of these materials

All persons hired for reference work will become familiar with all of the library’s departments, resources, and services within the first month of employment.  All staff are expected and encouraged to participate in workshops, seminars, and professional organizations.

The library’s job descriptions outline additional responsibilities of reference staff members.  These are available for review at any time.  Other duties may be assigned to the staff member by the department manager or the library director.

Qualified librarians staff the Adult and Youth Services reference desks whenever the library is open to the public.

Reference assistance should be offered whenever a patron appears to need help or asks for help.  Such assistance may involve accompanying the patron to a catalog or to other parts of the collection to locate materials or to use special resources.  Before a reference transaction is concluded, the librarian should ascertain that the patron’s information needs have been met.

If several people are waiting for assistance, requests that are brief or that involve minimal staff guidance may be given priority over long or complex questions that require greater amounts of time.  When a patron has a time-consuming request that causes service to others to be delayed, the staff member should offer to answer the question at a later time.

Reference service is available to all individuals served by the library regardless of age, sex, religion, race, or social or economic status.  Interlibrary loan service, however, is limited to Tinley Park Public Library cardholders.

Service to the public receives priority over any other duties.  Clerical tasks, professional conversations with co-workers, and other assignments or duties are secondary.  All requests for service, including telephone requests, should be handled in the order of their arrival.  The amount of time involved in answering a question, as determined by the individual staff member, will also help to determine when a request will be satisfied.  If a staff member assigned to the desk must leave for more than a few minutes, another staff member should be available to remain at the desk.

Although the Tinley Park Library’s primary responsibility is to patrons who reside in Tinley Park and Orland Hills, there is no discrimination against other patrons for basic reference service.

Reference staff may assist patrons in finding information, but will not offer opinions, interpretations, or summaries of that information.

Reference staff preserve the confidentiality of all personal information about its patrons.  The name, address, and telephone number of a patron is never released to a third party without the prior knowledge and consent of the patron.  The content of a patron’s question is not divulged to a third party without the prior knowledge and consent of the patron.

Special Situations Regarding Reference Service
Library orientation and bibliographic instruction are offered to groups or individuals. Groups wishing to schedule an appointment for a library orientation or for instruction on how to use our resources are asked to call the library at least three days in advance.  The reference staff member who is accepting the request should arrange a time that is acceptable to the group and manageable for the staff.  Staff members should share the responsibility for groups of twenty or more individuals.

Homework assignments are intended to be a learning experience for the student.  The role of the reference staff member is to guide the student to materials or potential sources of information to complete the homework assignment.  Every effort is made to instruct the students in the use of appropriate sources.  The student is expected, however, to use the material to meet the requirements of the assignment.  The reference staff does not organize, write, or solve a student’s assignment.  Requests that involve extensive research for homework projects are not answered by telephone or electronically. If every effort made by the staff member and the student to locate information has failed, the student is encouraged to return to the teacher for further instruction.  A note describing the search effort may be given to the student for the teacher if the staff member believes that it is called for.

Telephone reference should be used for short, factual questions that do not require extensive reading or searching on the part of staff members.  If the answer to a telephone query seems too involved to relate easily over the telephone, the patron should be advised to come to the library for better assistance.  In the interest of serving all patrons efficiently, telephone reference transactions should be brought to a close as soon as the patron’s query has been answered.

The library provides computers for patron use and has posted rules and procedures for such use.  All reference staff understand these rules and enforce them.  Staff members know how to use these computers and the software available on them.  The reference librarians do not provide thorough instruction to patrons in computer use, but guide them to manuals or tutorial software.  Alternatively, librarians may suggest that patrons needing instruction attend computer classes offered by the library, park district, community colleges, or other agencies.

Patrons are assisted in finding materials and information regarding their legal, medical, tax, and financial questions.  Staff members offer no interpretations or summaries of such information, offer no opinions about the patron’s situation, and make no recommendations as to appropriate treatments or actions.   Staff members may, according to the patron’s need, provide referrals to legal and medical directories.

Appraisals of rare and used books, works of fine art, antiques, or other artifacts are not offered by reference staff.  Staff members use appropriate directories and services to make necessary referrals as stated above.

Genealogical research for patrons is not conducted by reference staff members.  The staff member provides assistance during the patron’s search, including instruction in the use of print and electronic sources, referrals to other agencies, and requests for materials through interlibrary loan.

Mathematical calculations are not performed for patrons by staff members.  Information from mathematical tables and formulas may be provided for the patron’s use.

Accessing Reference Service
Patron requests for information received via U.S. mail, fax, and electronic means are honored.  Librarians should strive to fill fax, mail, and electronic requests within 24 hours of receipt.  If the librarians cannot clearly and completely determine a patron’s needs over the telephone or via email, instant messaging, or chat, the patron is encouraged to come to the library.

A reference staff member may need to produce photocopies or computer printouts of materials for a patron in order to completely answer a question.  These should be offered free of charge.  This service is offered, however, only in direct response to a reference question and only if the staff member believes it is necessary and appropriate.  Patrons who request that copies be made for them will be charged fifteen cents per page.

Problems and Emergencies
All staff members share in the responsibility of solving problems and assisting in emergencies as they may arise.  Always contact a department manager or supervisor when you are not sure how to handle a situation.

Policy Review and Revision
The library staff, administrator, and board of trustees will review this policy for possible revision every other year.

This policy is available for public inspection and review upon request.

Approved 8/24/88
Revised 10/92,
Revised 3/08,
Revised 2/11