What is reference for:

We can do better. Let's start with this question: What is reference for? What is it meant to achieve? Other than employ reference librarians (and there are more than a few people out there who appear to think that's the case, as though falling reference statistics were in and of themselves dangerous), reference work arose in the late 19th and early 20th century to respond to several forces and trends:

  • an increase in the number and variety of information resources available, including, but not exclusively, those found in libraries
  • an increase in the complexity of those information resources
  • jointly, these combine to make it more difficult, in general, for people to find the resource they are looking for and to find the information they need within that resource
  • an increase in the number and diversity of people using libraries (particularly public libraries), leading to a wider range of information needs and enquiries and sophistication with the search for information

Joseph Janes http://www.ala.org/ala/rusa/rusaprotools/futureofref/whatreference.htm