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Library Reference Policies

Reference services at Point Park University support the instructional, research, and service mission of the University. Through instruction-based reference, the library staff will meet the information needs of the university community effectively and accurately, while promoting information literacy skills and self-sufficiency in information retrieval and research.

What is included in Reference Service:

Reference/Research transactions:These questions or research topics require significant knowledge, use, recommendation, or interpretation of one or more information sources.  Reference transactions may also include instruction in the use of one or more information resources.

Directional/Other transactions: These include simple questions that usually do not require extensive research or multiple resources to answer.  These questions require no significant instruction. Examples include location of items, rooms, and collections within the library; quick ready reference questions; and retrieval of titles in the library online catalog.

Library administrative transactions: These include questions or concerns about library policy and procedure as well as staff approval for circulation overrides.

Hours of service:

The reference desk is staffed during all hours that the library is opened.

Who provides Reference Service:

Reference service is provided by library staff only. Student library workers must direct reference and administrative questions to the staff member on reference duty.  With permission and supervision from the reference librarian on duty, student workers at the circulation desk may answer simple directional questions and handle basic searches in PointCat during busy periods. Student library workers will be referred to the Student Employee Handbook for clearer definition of their public duties.

Whom we serve:

Reference service is primarily for Point Park University students, faculty, staff, and administration. Due to library consortium agreements, assistance may also be provided to students and faculty of other universities. Point Park alumni also have limited access to the library facilities and can seek assistance in the location of print resources and information about the university. Although the general public is not permitted access to the library building, the public still may seek assistance by phone or by email. It is out of professional courtesy that the library staff assists these patrons through simple reference transactions or through referral to other libraries.

Priority of service

Reference service is provided on a first-come-first-serve basis, regardless whether it is in-person, phone or Instant Messenger.

Service to library patrons takes precedence over any other duty that library staff may perform while at the reference desk.

Reference transactions should begin at the reference desk, not automatically begun at a computer away from the reference desk.  If the patron needs in-depth assistance whilst working on their own, the librarian on duty should request another librarian for help.  The reference desk is not to be left unattended for lengthy periods of time.

During periods of high volume at the reference desk, library staff may interrupt lengthy reference/research transactions to quickly handle directional and simple questions from other patrons.

Library staff may ask patrons with extensive research or reference needs to schedule a separate reference appointment so that they may have more individualized attention.

Equity of Service, Confidentiality, and Professional Ethics:

Prompt and friendly service will be provided to all students, staff, faculty, and administration of Point Park University on an equal basis, without discrimination based on age, race, creed, gender, socio-economic class, sexual preference, ethnicity, or position within the university.

The identity of a patron and the nature of the question asked will not be made known to other library patrons or outside agencies. However, this information may be communicated to Point Park Library staff or other libraries’ personnel if referral and/or follow-up assistance is requested by the patron.

Staff or patron’s personal beliefs, moral judgments, or personal opinions should not influence quality of service.

Library staff will cite the source(s) of a reference answer or provide means by which the patron can retrieve the resources after the reference transaction is over.

Customer Service Standards:

Library staff will be courteous and approachable. They should make eye contact, smile and be the first to initiate the transaction (“How may I help you?”)

Staff will make an effort to approach patrons that seem to be lost, confused, or need help.

When taking a reference call, staff should provide their name to the patron.

Staff may have food and drink at the reference desk as long as snacking is discreet and liquids are spill proof.

Reference Statistics:

Statistics about each reference transaction will be recorded by library staff on the access form “REF_FORM”, which is accessible from the reference computer desktop.  Any personal information identifying patrons will only be viewed by library staff and only if patrons provide this information for referral or follow up reference assistance. Procedures for filling out the reference form can be found on the shared drive – O:\BI_Referece\ReferenceForm_Explained.

Points of Reference Service:

Desk – In-person reference assistance is available during all hours of library operation

Phone – Assistance is available at 412-392-3171 during all hours of library operation. Voice mail is available for after-hours calls. Voice mail calls will be returned the following business day.

E-mail – Email assistance is available at library@pointpark.edu. Library staff will reply to the patron by the end of the next business day. Emails received during weekend hours will take longer.

Instant Reference (IM) – Patrons with access to Yahoo or AOL instant messenger can initiate a live chat with a librarian. The library’s IM username is pointlibim. This service is available for all the hours that the desk is staffed.  Patrons using IM will be treated like any other library patron seeking reference help and will be assisted on a first come, first serve basis. Each chat session will be automatically be recorded and filed in the Library shared drive.

Library staff will not tolerate harassment, threats, abuse, or obscene language and gestures and will terminate reference transactions in which patrons demonstrate any of these inappropriate behaviors. It is the right of the library staff to seek assistance from Security to remove unruly patrons from the premises or to report inappropriate and disruptive behavior to Point Park University Administration.

Circulation of Reference Material:

Print reference material behind the circulation desk is for in-house use only.

Audio-Visual reference material may be checked out to patrons for in-house use only.

Referral to Other Libraries:

To meet the information needs of patrons, the library staff should make all efforts to utilize resources owned by Point Park University Library or resources that are accessible to Point Park University Library through consortium agreements. However, there will be circumstances where library staff must refer patrons to another academic or public library in order to meet the patron’s information needs in a timely and efficient manner.

Patron Services:

Phone Use – In emergencies, patrons may make local or on-campus calls from the circulation phone.  However, library staff will not take personal calls, business calls, or deliver phone messages for library patrons.

Printouts from online resources –The goal of the academic reference transaction is to impart retrieval skills to patrons so that they may access material on their own. Library reference staff will use discretion in the number and extent of resources they print out for patron use.

PALCI Faculty Borrowing Authorization – This form gives Point Park University faculty borrowing privileges at local academic libraries. Faculty members are only permitted borrowing privileges during their contract periods at Point Park University.  Only library staff may sign these forms.

Photocopy Key – The photocopy key is generally for library photocopy use only. Library staff may use the key to provide a small number of photocopies to teaching faculty or administration in emergencies. Library staff may also use the key to demonstrate advanced photocopy settings to patrons or to repay students who have lost money due to machine malfunctions. Otherwise, the library does not grant free photocopy privileges. Library staff must sign out the photocopy key for each use and record the number of copies made.

Lost and Found – Items left in the library (including computer data storage accessories) will be maintained in the library Lost and Found. Wallets and IDs left in the library will be handed over to security for safe keeping.  Security will contact patrons to retrieve these items.