The following guidelines should be used by Reference Department staff in providing answers and materials for ready-reference and general research questions taken in person, by telephone, by mail, or submitted electronically.
The primary role of the Reference Staff is to assist patrons with their information searches and to educate them in the location and use of all types of reference resources. While assistance will be provided, patrons should not expect Reference Staff to do their work for them. Depending on desk coverage, staff may allow as much as 15 minutes assisting a patron before returning to the Reference Desk to be available to assist other patrons. Patrons are not permitted to purchase dedicated staff time for reference or research services; please see the Library’s Gift and Donation Policy (Policy 4.3) for additional details.
All reference transactions should be treated with confidentiality, and the patron’s right to privacy must be ensured. All information requests should be discussed only in a professional manner.
Patrons of all ages will be provided correct answers or referrals to their reference requests as soon as possible. If an answer cannot be provided within twenty-four hours, the patron will be informed of the status of their request.
While priority is given to walk-in patrons, telephone and electronic requests will be answered as quickly as possible. If “same day” service cannot be provided, the patron will be informed.
Locating Materials and Resources
Whenever possible, answers will first be sought using the resources available within the Chelmsford Library, whether print or electronic. The Reference Staff will also use the resources available through the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MVLC), the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) and the 24×7 – Ask a Librarian Chat service.
If an answer cannot be provided immediately using local resources, appropriate print or electronic materials will be requested on the patron’s behalf.
Every effort will be made to provide patrons with a source for an answer, where appropriate. If a patron is unable to visit the Library, the staff should offer to mail, fax, email or text a copy of the material or a bibliography of the resources used (reproduction and/or shipping costs may apply).
Loaning of Reference Materials
Reference and Historical Collection materials will not leave the building. Materials in these areas are considered to be important for ready access to patrons, and may include irreplaceable Local History items. Allowing reference items to circulate defeats the purpose of having a separate section for reference use. Patrons are provided the opportunity to photocopy if they need to have the printed material in hand.
Types of Questions
The Reference Staff strives to provide professional and complete answers to any type of question asked at the Reference Desk. In addition to general reference questions, the following types of questions receive special treatment:
- Directory Information – Reference Staff will assist patrons searching for names, addresses, or other contact information in any publicly-available resource, including telephone books, city directories, and electronic resources. Reference staff will not provide personal information about other Library staff, nor information contained in their personnel files. Please contact Library Administration or the Town of Chelmsford Human Resources Department for personnel information.
- Homework Assignments – The use of the Library for homework and research assignments is part of the educational process, and staff should strive to provide students with a positive library experience. Questions from students should be answered in the same manner as other informational requests, and additional time should be given to provide the student with informal bibliographical instruction and research techniques.
- Technology Questions – All Reference Staff will be proficient with the technology resources available within the library, and are responsible for assisting with electronic research resources and basic library computer, internet and personal device competencies. Technology questions beyond the scope of regular Library resources may be referred to the Head of Reference or the Library’s technology administrator.
- Medical/Legal/Financial Information – Medical, legal, tax and investing assistance is limited to directing patrons to Library resources and/or secondary referral sources such as local hospital libraries, law libraries, etc. Reference staff cannot, at any time, assist with the interpretation of medical, legal or financial information, or give patrons advice on these topics. Tax forms will be available when distributed by the state of Massachusetts or the Federal Government.
- Trivia Questions – Trivia questions should be considered in the same manner as other informational questions. In line with the Chelmsford Library’s Public Service Policy (Policy 2.1), “The needs and requests of library patrons should always be taken seriously and treated with respect. Equal consideration should be given to all users in a non-judgmental environment.”
Updated, Board of Library Trustees, June 2016