Newton’s First Law of Librarians

Information doesn’t sit still, so why should librarians? And once a librarian is in motion, should she stay in motion?

That’s the question Joy Painter and her fellow librarians at the California Institute of Technology hope to answer by experimenting with different models of service delivery. In addition to the traditional approach—sitting at the reference desk—the librarians are providing on-call and “roving” reference services. Their goal is to see which method best meets the information needs of physics students and faculty at the school.


“During winter term I’ll spend half of my regular shifts sitting at the desk and the other half roving in the physics collection, working on a project,” Joy wrote in her proposal for a poster presentation at the SLA 2016 Annual Conference. “During both times, I’ll count and categorize my interactions. I hope to get a sense from library users who they are, what they’re looking for, and how the library can better meet their needs. At the end of the term, I will know if roving reference is a better physics outreach strategy than sitting at the general reference desk.”

Joy will present her findings at the All-Sciences Poster Session and Reception on Monday, June 13, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Like the posters presented in 2015, the 2016 posters will address a wide variety of topics, including these:

  • Efforts to develop a toolkit to evaluate the effectiveness of an embedded librarian program;
  • The use of citation metrics to teach information literacy;
  • An evaluation of whether researchers’ citations reflect library budget allocation practices;
  • An analysis of what chemistry researchers read to stay abreast of recent developments; and
  • The efficacy of writing workshops for engineering graduate students and the value that librarians add to these workshops.

Learn more about the poster session and other offerings at SLA 2016 by viewing the online planner. Interested in attending the conference? Register for all three days, or select a one-day or exhibit hall pass.

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