"What is the Role of a Reference Librarian?"

In our profession, there is considerable talk about what it is that Reference Librarians do and the role we play doing what it is that we do for our communities. At a recent Booklist webinar, this question was posed: "What is the Role of a Reference Librarian?"

Although my responsibilities as the Historical Resources Coordinator for the BCL overlaps into several categories (Reference Librarian/Archivist/Materials Selector/Advocate for Historical Collections and Libraries/Branch Manager/Preservation Officer/Digitization Project Manager/Grant Writer/Local History Programs for Adults Coordinator/and the Library's point person to the Historic Resources Consortium to list but a few), I am fundamentally first, foremost, and proud to be a Reference Librarian.

I am in complete agreement with David Tyckoson that the roles of the Reference Librarian remain the same as they were in 1876:

  1. Teach people how to use the library and its resources
  2.  Answer queries for specific information
  3. Recommend good sources and reading material
  4. Promote the library within the community

The roles are the same. However, the tools to perform these roles have changed dramatically since 1876 and super dramatically since I entered the field in 1981. (We were just learning how to use a mouse and what hyperlinks were in 1981. Now we have to navigate social media, audio formats, video formats, digital formats merging other formats, etc. in addition to keeping up with the print world making the job tasks far more complicated than when I got my first library degree. Reference librarians have to stay abreast of all sorts of emerging technologies and customer needs.) To read Tyckoson's complete blog entry about the role of a Reference Librarian click here.

In case you are interested in learning more about what it is like to be a Reference Librarian, contact your local branch library Reference Librarians or me. You can also find information about the field of Librarianship at the University of South Carolina's School of Library and Information Science and the American Library Association's "Explore a Career in Libraries" web pages.

Wondering who your local branch library Reference Librarian might be? Here's a shout out to my colleagues -- the unsung Adult, Youth Services, Branch Managers, coordinators, and webmaster, who serve as full-time, part-time, or fill in as Reference Librarians when needed -- within the Beaufort County Library system: Dennis Adams, Wendy Allen, Maria Benac, Mary Jo Berkes, Amanda Brewer, Marlene Coleman, Traci Cox, Bratton DeLoach, Francesca Denton, Halle Eisenman, Laura Hayden, Fran Hays, Staci Inman, Gina Molter, Jean Morgan, Priscilla Pomazal, Ann Rosen, Joe Selleck, Scott Strawn, and Melinda Vest.

Call on us. We are here to assist you. Beaufort County Library "For [Your] Learning, For [Your] Leisure, For [Your] Life."

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.