Over 100 Librarians Attend Third Annual Symposium - "Reference Librarian: Technologist or Scholar?"

NEW YORK, March 30, 2004 Columbia University Libraries Reference Coordinating Committee hosted the symposium, “Reference Librarian: Technologist or Scholar?” on Friday, March 12, 2004, at the Business School in Uris Hall. This was the third symposium focusing on reference librarians that Columbia Libraries has hosted since 2001. This year, Columbia again invited representatives of large academic research libraries in the Northeast to share ideas, plans, and concerns about reference services.


James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, welcomed more than 100 reference librarians, heads of reference departments, and public service managers 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, Stanford University, and Yale University. The 2004 symposium focused on the role of the reference librarian as a technologist and scholar and included discussions of when, why, and how reference librarians can and do fulfill each of these roles throughout their careers.

Thomas Mann, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress, delivered the keynote address at the symposium. Dr. Mann discussed a critical issue in today’s research libraries—the loss of onsite classified book collections in the face of the current zeal and support for electronic resources. Commenting on the success of the symposium, Dr. Mann said, “The forum was good for examining a wider range of views than are usually considered at library conferences.”

“Throughout the day, research librarians addressed issues centered on technology and scholarship,” said Jane Winland, Director, Social Sciences Libraries at Columbia University and the symposium organizer. “The attendees discussed how research librarians can serve as technologists and scholars simultaneously, how the current focus on scholarship and technology causes librarians to compromise professional values to gain respect, and how to transfer respect or status into improved compensation.”

As part of the symposium, Columbia University honored Eileen McIlvaine for her 35 years of outstanding service as Head of Reference and Collections at Butler Library.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

03/30/04 JD