The Columbia University Libraries Reference Coordinating Committee hosted a day-long symposium, entitled Reference Librarian: Technologist or Scholar?, on Friday, March 12, 2004. The symposium was held in honor of Eileen McIlvaine's 35 years of outstanding service as Head of Reference & Collections at Columbia's Butler Library.

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

The first and second symposia on Reference in the 21st Century brought together reference librarians and administrators from large academic research libraries, primarily in the Northeast, providing us an opportunity to discuss our common concerns. Previous discussions have taken place with the understanding of our commonalities based upon our geography, our organizational cultures, and the nature of our student populations.

This year's symposium focused on the theme of the reference librarian as technologist and scholar, and included discussions of when, why, and how we can and do fulfill each of these roles throughout our careers.

We raised the following questions:

  • Can we be technologist and scholar simultaneously?
  • Will our profession's increasing focus on scholarship and technology cause us to compromise our educational and professional values, in order to gain respect from our peers, our faculty, our institutions, and our communities?
  • Does respect or status translate into improved compensation?

The 2004 Symposium provided over 100 librarians with a productive and provocative opportunity to share ideas and prepare to effectively manage the changing needs of library users.

Please direct any questions or comments about the Reference Symposium  to

Columbia University Libraries
Reference Coordinating Committee