Reference Departments in large academic research libraries have changed in many ways since Melvil Dewey founded the first one in 1883 at Columbia University. On March 9, 2001, the Columbia University Libraries Reference Coordinating Committee hosted a day-long symposium, entitled Reference Service in the 21st Century.

The purpose of this symposium was to bring together reference librarians, heads of reference departments, and public service managers from large research libraries, primarily in the Northeast, to share ideas, plans, and concerns about the future of reference services. We extended invitations to librarians from Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard College Library, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton Unviersity, Rutgers University, Stanford University, and Yale University.

The program included a panel discussion on how reference departments and the services they offer are changing to meet future needs. After lunch, each attendee had the opportunity to participate in two of the four proposed break-out groups. Each break-out group reported back to the entire audience at the conclusion of the program.

The Symposium proved to be a productive and provocative opportunity to share ideas and prepare ourselves to effectively manage the changing needs of our users. On this site, you will find materials associated with the program itself, as well as a list of attendees and a summary of the evaluations we received from participants.

We hope that we will be able to continue this dialogue through our new connections and networks, and encourage others to share the responsibility of organizing further events like this one.

Columbia University Libraries
Reference Coordinating Committee