Reference Policy

Reference Policy

INTRODUCTION

As part of its mission to enrich the community, the Wilmington Memorial Library provides accurate and timely reference and information assistance to all patrons.

In support of this aim, the philosophy of service is based on the following:

  • All information requests shall be answered promptly, accurately, efficiently, and courteously.  Answers may include the following:  information, instruction, and/or referrals.
  • All patrons will be provided service on an equal, nondiscriminatory, and nonjudgmental basis without regard to the race, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, background, appearance, or personal view of the patron making the inquiry, or the subject matter being researched.  Patrons need not be registered borrowers or local residents to receive reference service.
  • All requests for information are legitimate and are treated as such.
  • All transactions between the patron and staff members are confidential.  Patrons and information requests are not discussed beyond conferring with a colleague for assistance.  Please see our Confidentiality Policy for more information.
  • Staff will provide information impartially.

Purpose
The Reference and Information Services Policy has been created to fulfill the following objectives:

  • To ensure a uniform standard of quality service.
  • To provide a document for training staff.
  • As a referral source of direction and guidance for all staff.
  • To make available to the public the written service guidelines of the scope and boundaries of the service.

Summary of Service
Definitions of Service:

  • Reference Service is here defined as “the assistance given to patrons in pursuit of information.”
  • A Reference Question is here defined as “any informational contact initiated by a patron, which involves the knowledge, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources, by a member of the staff.
  • Information Sources include printed materials, research databases, the internet, and through communication or referral, other libraries and institutions, and people inside and outside the library.

Examples of Reference Assistance include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing assistance with the catalog and library computers.
  • Providing reader’s advisory services.
  • Providing database and online assistance.
  • Providing assistance with research and school assignments.
  • Providing bibliographic verification.
  • Providing interlibrary loan assistance. 

Modes of Inquiry

  • In Person

Patrons are served on a first-come, first-served basis.  Exceptions can be made, with permission of the patron, or according to the judgment of the librarian, when there are several people waiting and another question can be handled quickly.

  • By Telephone

Telephone inquiries may have limitations imposed.  Brief, factual information may be given over the telephone; these transactions typically take no more than five minutes.  Patrons asking in-depth questions may be required to visit the library in person.  During busy periods, priority is given to patrons in the library.  Patrons with telephone inquiries will be called back at the earliest opportunity.

  • By Email

Email questions will be checked by staff Monday through Friday, and every effort will be made to respond within three business days.  While staff will make every effort to reply to email requests via email, patrons asking in-depth questions may be required to visit the library in person.

  • By Mail

Staff will respond to all written requests for information as time and activity levels permit.  Patrons asking in-depth questions may be required to visit the library in person.

  • By Instant Message

Instant message inquiries are welcomed, however, during busy times, priority is given to patrons in the library.  While staff will make every effort to reply to instant message inquiries via instant message, patrons asking in-depth questions may be required to visit the library in person.

Limitations of Service
Due to limited staffing, reference transactions are limited to a maximum of one hour.  More time may be spent at the discretion of the librarian. 

Requests for Specialized Information

  • Appraisal of Books and Works of Art

Staff will assist patrons in locating appropriate price guides for art works, antiques, coins, stamps, and other collectibles, and they will assist patrons in locating appropriate reviews of print and media materials.  Staff may also offer listings of appraisers or vendors, but they may not make personal recommendations.

  • Business Information & Stock Quotes

Staff will assist patrons in locating business resources and answering factual inquiries.  Patrons needing assistance with in-depth business research questions will be referred to the Kirstein Business Library.  The time involved in locating stock quotes varies according to format and time period.  Patrons whose request requires extensive research, including the use of microfilm, will be asked to come to the library where staff will assist them as necessary. 

  • Consumer Information

For telephone inquiries, information read will be brief and should include the date of the information and the specific product or model described or tested. Patrons are encouraged to come to the library to examine full reports for information on all the products being rated. Staff may not make recommendations and/or value judgments on any item.

  • Contests & Trivia

Staff makes no distinction between these types of questions and any other reference requests.  Because some quiz questions might have more than one answer that seems correct, however, the library takes no responsibility to guarantee the correct answer for a contest.  Staff cannot interpret rules, certain words, or draw conclusions for the patron.

  • Directory Information

Staff may provide addresses and telephone numbers to the public, where the name of the individual, company or organization is known. Staff will also provide assistance with reverse look-ups (where the patron has a phone number or address, but not the name).  Staff will not provide assistance with nearby inquiries (where the customer has an address and wants to know who lives next door) unless the patron making the request visits the library in person.

  • Editing

Staff does not critique or edit manuscripts, school assignments, cover letters, or resumes. In such cases, staff will provide referrals to appropriate editors or workshops. 

  • Exam Proctoring

Staff will proctor examinations for students taking correspondence courses.  Arrangements must be made at least a week in advance with the adult services librarian.  During the examination, all attempts will be made to provide the student with a quiet place to take the exam, but silence cannot be guaranteed. 

  • Genealogical & Local History Information

Staff will provide general assistance in genealogical research, guidance in locating items in the collection, and help in obtaining resources through interlibrary loan, but will not engage in actual genealogical research for patrons. 

  • Interlibrary Loan Requests

Staff will provide appropriate referral and access to materials and information outside the library. Librarians will follow interlibrary loan procedures as established by Massachusetts Library Systems and the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium. All requests will be placed through established cooperatives (MVLC, Virtual Catalog) when possible. Materials not available through these systems may be obtained for a fee of $5 per item. In order to manage all interlibrary loan requests in a timely manner, the number of requests made by a patron may be limited by the librarian and/or by the regional delivery system. Use of someone else’s library card to make interlibrary loan requests is not allowed.

  • Internet & Computer Assistance

Staff is available to answer simple questions regarding the computers and/or internet, and to assist patrons with basic machinery problems.  Staff cannot provide individual in-depth computer training, technical assistance, or solve compatibility problems. When further information is needed, staff will refer patrons to pertinent manuals, other library resources, and/or the computer classes offered by the library and other local organizations.

  • Legal Information

Legal questions will be treated like any other reference question provided that the patron does not require legal advice or interpretation. Staff cannot interpret, draw conclusions, give advice, provide opinions, or make recommendations regarding legal information requests. Staff may suggest that the patron contact an attorney, an appropriate government agency or nonprofit organization, or the State Law Library.

  • Mathematics Information

Staff will assist patrons in finding appropriate tables, formulas, or text books, but patrons must do their own calculations.

  • Medical Information

Medical inquiries will be treated like any other reference question provided that the patron does not require medical advice or interpretation. Staff cannot interpret, draw conclusions, give advice, provide opinions, or make recommendations regarding medical information requests. Staff may suggest that the patron contact a physician, an appropriate government agency or nonprofit organization, or the Lowell General Hospital or the Massachusetts General Hospital medical libraries. 

  • Obituaries

The time involved in locating this information varies according to format and time period.   Patrons whose request requires extensive research, including use of microfilm, are asked to come to the library where staff will assist them as necessary.

  • School Assignments

Homework questions that do not involve a lengthy search are answered, taking care to find out first if the original intent of the assignment was to have students learn how to use the library to conduct independent research. Whenever possible, students are encouraged to come in and participate in the reference process. (Staff will make an effort to interact directly with the student and not an accompanying parent.)   All teachers are encouraged to fill out an Assignment Alert Form, found on our website, to give staff advance notice of class assignments.

  • Specialized Bibliographies
    • For Individuals:  Staff may prepare bibliographies on behalf of individual patrons in response to readers’ advisory requests as time and activity level permits.  Patrons are encouraged to fill out our Looking for a Good Book? readers’ advisory form if they would like to have a bibliography prepared.  Staff may not prepare bibliographies for school assignments.  In this case, staff will instruct patrons on how to search for appropriate sources and locate citation guides.
    • For Groups/Organizations:  Bibliographies that will assist community organizations, government agencies, and classes in Wilmington may be prepared.  Requests for bibliographies should be referred to the adult or youth services librarians as appropriate.  A minimum of 2 weeks is required for any typed list; depending upon the subject, and nature of the request, more notice may be needed.

  • Tax Information

The library participates annually in the tax form distribution program. Specific tax questions will be treated as any other reference question provided that the patron does not require tax advice or interpretation. Staff cannot interpret, draw conclusions, give advice, provide opinions, or make recommendations regarding tax information requests. Staff may suggest that the patron contact an accountant, the federal or state departments of revenue, or the State Law Library.

  • Translations

Staff responds to patron requests for translations of words and phrases by using appropriate sources. Patrons that request translations that would take considerable time or that are beyond the level of staff expertise will be referred to another resource. 

  • Tutoring Assistance

Staff does not provide private tutoring. Referrals to appropriate literacy providers or community agencies will be offered. Tutors may arrange to meet with students in library space.

Statistics
Statistics are kept on the number of reference and information services transactions conducted at the Wilmington Memorial Library.  The records do not include the names or subjects associated with individual reference requests.  Statistics are tallied and reported monthly to the Town Manager and annually to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Approved by the Board of Library Trustees November 18, 2008