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Balch Springs Library-Learning Center

Reference Services Policy

Reference Services Policy

Balch Springs Library – Learning Center

Approved by the Library Board September 20, 2012

The Balch Springs Library – Learning Center provides information to patrons in the way of knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction. Library staff will use the best resources available to provide reference information for patrons. We strive to provide the best information in an environment that is positive and respectful to all patrons.

A list of valid, reliable reference websites is listed in the Reference Notebook located at the circulation desk.  All staff members will record their reference transactions on a daily basis in the reference transaction notebook. These statistics are used for reporting purposes to maintain accreditation from the Texas State Library and Archives Commissions for which we are a member.

Reference Transaction

A reference transaction is information provided by library staff to help patrons meet their informational needs.  Directional information such as questions about a fax machine, restrooms or pointing to sections of the library is not considered reference transactions.  Library staff may need to consult the Library Director if they are unsure about information to provide to patrons or if they are unsure if a question is considered a reference question. 

Patrons ask reference questions both in person and by phone.  Priority is given to those who are currently at the library.  If the reference question requires research by library staff or if there are multiple questions, staff must write down patron’s name and contact information and explain that providing an answer may take up to 24 hours to answer.  If the reference question requires intensive research, analysis or interpretation, the patron is encouraged to perform their own research.

Library staff will strive to provide accurate information in a professional and courteous manner to all patrons in the library, maintaining professionalism at all times. 

Types of reference transactions

Before responding to a reference question, staff must understand the question thoroughly. When answering reference questions, staff will refrain from providing personal opinions, beliefs or experience. Staff will cite the resource for the patron when answering a question.

The following are a few of the many types of reference questions staff may encounter at the circulation desk. This list is not inclusive as there are many different questions that are answered on a daily basis. Library staff is to provide answers to questions using valid sources.

  • Providing information or instructions on the library catalog
  • Providing call numbers
  • Locating materials on shelves
  • Explaining online services
  • Providing general information (not directional)
  • Bibliographic information such as title, author, ISBN, publisher, price
  • Providing material suggestions
  • Providing information for other community activities
  • Renewing a book over the phone or in person
  • Helping patrons with computers

Telephone reference questions may be answered while keeping the patron on hold providing the question does not take more than two to three minutes to answer.