Interactions: A Study of Office Reference Statistics

Naomi Lederer, Louise Mort Feldmann


Objective – The purpose of this study was to analyze the data from a reference statistics-gathering mechanism at Colorado State University (CSU) Libraries. It aimed primarily to better understand patron behaviours, particularly in an academic library with no reference desk.

Methods – The researchers examined data from 2007 to 2010 of College Liaison Librarians’ consultations with patrons. Data were analyzed by various criteria, including patron type, contact method, and time spent with the patron. The information was examined in the aggregate, meaning all librarians combined, and then specifically from the Liberal Arts and Business subject areas.

Results – The researchers found that the number of librarian reference consultations is substantial. Referrals to librarians from CSU’s Morgan Library’s one public service desk have declined over time. The researchers also found that graduate students are the primary patrons and email is the preferred contact method overall.

Conclusion – The researchers found that interactions with patrons in librarians’ offices – either in person or virtually – remain substantial even without a traditional reference desk. The data suggest that librarians’ efforts at marketing themselves to departments, colleges, and patrons have been successful. This study will be of value to reference, subject specialist, and public service librarians, and library administrators as they consider ways to quantify their work, not only for administrative purposes, but in order to follow trends and provide services and staffing accordingly.


academic librarians; reference; library instruction; library statistics

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