Columbia University Libraries Hosts 4th Reference in the 21st Century Symposium: “The Service in ‘Reference Services’”

NEW YORK, March 20, 2006 - Columbia University Libraries Reference Coordinating Committee hosted the symposium, “The Service in ‘Reference Services’” on March 10, 2006. This was the fourth 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. The 2006 symposium focused on the changing academic needs of undergraduates, researchers, and faculty, and how reference librarians can play an integral role in this new environment. A complete program with transcripts and audio of the presentations can be found at:

ref_symposium_panel Panelists from left to right: Emily Horning, coordinator of humanities instruction, Yale University; Laura R. Braunstein, English language and literature librarian, Dartmouth College; Daniel Beeby, associate director of services, Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning

Joan Lippincott, associate executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information opened the day’s proceedings with a discussion of innovative library services, both in-person and virtual, that more fully support the research and educational needs of users in the fluid, networked environment shaped by contemporary technology.

“Our Net-Gen students like to figure it out themselves,” said Lippincott. “Our job is create the kind of environment for users, both physical and virtual, where they can find more answers to their questions without an intermediary.”

Patricia Renfro, Deputy University Librarian, welcomed more than 100 reference librarians, heads of reference departments, and public service managers from 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 symposium features two panels. The first, on the evolution of reference services through technology and outreach, featured Michael Halperin, director of the Lippincott Library at the University of Pennsylvania; Jennifer Harter, Physics librarian and reference coordinator at the Science Library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Kathryn Shaughnessy, instructional services librarian at St. John’s University; and was moderated by Shinjoung Yeo, coordinator for reference services at the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford University. The second panel, on the expansion of instruction services provided by reference librarians, featured Daniel Beeby, associate director of services at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning; Emily Horning, coordinator of humanities instruction at Yale University; and Laura R. Braunstein, English language and literature librarian at Dartmouth College; and was moderated by Robert H. Scott, head of the Electronic Text Service at Columbia University.

“In the world of the web we learn as much from our patrons as they do from us,” said Scott. “But I think that the best librarianship has always been a collaborative process. We were mistaken if we thought that we had all the answers on the other side of the desk....Our goal needs to be to...find our patrons where they live, to get to them where they need information, to meet them on the road, to be proactive.”

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 is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

03/20/06 ICL