The abundance and wide variety of reference policies presented on the World Wide Web are excitingly numerous. This matter of facts, though, does not simplify the understanding of reference principles.
There is a need to analyze them more thoroughly.
Let us now take a closer look at some types of reference policy statements on specific aspects of reference service. First of all, most sources define the reference policy as a set of rules and procedures that describe the services and resources offered by the Library (or educational institution), the extent to which they are provided and to whom and by whom such services are delivered.
When performing the research assignment, one may come across, for example, such types of reference policies:
- Ready Reference – questions that require a few minutes to answer. The answers are readily provided by the library’s (informational source’s) specialists.
- In-Depth Reference – this type of request may require referral to subject specialists and may need scheduling an appointment because it deals with assistance requests that might require more than a few minutes of staff assistance.
- Instruction, Workshops, Tours – most educational institutions provide guidance on some resources and topics. The instruction processes are connected with and supported by specific faculties, students, staff, and other organization’s individuals.
- Access to Electronic Resources – the most contemporary way of requesting information collected in electronic library resources – online catalogs, databases, and journals. The definite plus of such referencing is that information is available remotely and in all library units. Access to some documents though may be restricted to members of individual communities or groups. Electronic libraries are also not intended to support activities unrelated to library study and research.
- Interlibrary Borrowing – this type of information gathering requires obtaining materials not available at the internal resources and need for research, study, or work at other libraries or information collecting institutions.
- Reference Requests and Research Requests – it requests services provided by handwritten, telephone or online reference request. Telephone requests might be limited to specific areas of information and time restrictions.
- Individual Research Assistance – This type of assistance includes individual research consultations.
- Collections Use – Exclusive information may sometimes be obtained only in individual reading rooms that have numerous rules and restrictions to be followed. Otherwise, the collection users might be heavily penalized and even excluded from the system. In exchange for research data, users should provide identification documents and register in the system. The institution’s officials usually reserve the right to decide what materials in the collection are available for use and reproduction, and what form that reproduction may take. Usage policy includes common rules on food, beverages, and cell phone restrictions, and additional rules on taking notes and material borrowing, and the use of digital cameras or scanners.
- Photoduplication/Digital Imaging – are popular ways of providing reading materials for the library users.
- Photocopying – All libraries and other sources of information have copyright policies to follow. The materials available to the public may be protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code) which governs reproduction, distribution, public display and specific other uses of protected works. The responsibility for questions of copyright and other legal issues which may arise from facsimile reproduction of materials from the collections, or from the use of such copies, are usually assumed by the user.
The rules are entirely a rigor and individual written consent of the library’s officials.
For the short analysis of reference policies I have chosen the Stanford University – Access to Electronic Resources (available at http://www-sul.stanford.edu/how_to/policies/reference_policies.html) and the University of Central Florida library Collections Use (taken from http://library.ucf.edu/SpecialCollections/AboutUs/RefPolicies.htm). The first policy mentioned above deals with materials borrowing from online catalogs, databases, and journals are available in all library units. Many articles are available remotely.
According to the University’s policy, “the access to some non-government document resources may be restricted to members of the primary Stanford community.” As defined by the Stanford University Libraries “exceptions and exclusions may occur based on licensing arrangements. The rules also imply that Stanford faculty, students, and staff have priority for the use of on-site public computers (“kiosks”) designated for accessing electronic library resources. Kiosks are not intended to support activities unrelated to library study and research” [Leland Stanford Junior University, 2005].
According to Collections Use in the University of Central Florida The Special Collections policy implies that the University’s Reading Room is “open to researchers Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. All patrons are required to register and present a valid photo ID before using the collections. For your convenience, patrons may use our online Registration Form to register before visiting Special Collections.
The Special Collections Reading Room is closed major and university holidays. Special Collections reserves the right to decide what materials in the collection are available for use and reproduction, and what form that reproduction may take. Patrons who fail to abide by the Special Collections Research Use Policy may be denied access to Special Collections materials and be subject to other penalties as well. Due to their unique and sometimes fragile nature, Special Collections materials do not circulate; they must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room only. Food and Drink are not permitted in the Reading Room, and only #2 pencils may be used for note-taking. Cell phones need to be set to vibrate or turned off. All materials not needed for note taking must be checked-in upon registration. Laptops are permitted in the Reading Room, and the UCF Library does have laptops available for checkout at the Periodicals/AV desk located on the 3rd Floor of the Main Library. Patrons must obtain permission from Special Collections staff for the use of digital cameras and scanners in the Reading Room”. [University of Central Florida, 2005].
The reference policies presented above are not outstanding in comparison to any other policy available online; they are neither more rigorous, nor lax. And they can hardly be called absurd for such rules and regulations aimed at protecting valuable sources of information and decent conditions for using them.
There is a question on the necessity of such strict procedures, but in fact, it is better to prevent ant problems than to deal with the outcomes.