Information Services for Consumers: Collections & Service Code of Service
All libraries have an inherent obligation to provide information service to support the educational, recreational, personal, and economic endeavors of the members of their respective communities. Information service is defined in this document as personal assistance provided to users and potential users of information. It is characterized by a high degree of interaction between staff members and individual users or specifically identified groups of users or potential users. Information services in libraries take a variety of forms including direct personal assistance, directories or signs, exchange of information culled from a reference source, readers advisory assistance, dissemination of information in anticipation of user needs or interests, and direct end-user access to an information system via telecommunications hardware and software. A library, because it possesses and organizes for use its communitys single largest concentration of information resources, must develop information services appropriate to its community and in keeping with the ALAs Library Bill of Rights. These services should take into account the information-seeking behaviors, the information needs, and the service expectations of the members of that community. Provision of information in the manner most useful to its clients is the ultimate test of all a library does. In that spirit, these guidelines are directed to all those who share responsibility for providing information services, including trustees, administrators, educators, supervisors and department heads, and information staff in all types of libraries.
By intent and by design the guidelines below form a statement of service goals rather than a codification of practices. The reasons for casting these guidelines as goals are two; first, so that this statement can enjoy a long life of usefulness to the profession and to those whom libraries serve, and second, to suggest to managers and providers of information services goals to strive for. Because these guidelines must serve the needs of all types of libraries, it is recognized that not every statement in the guidelines will apply to a particular library or type of library. Therefore in applying the guidelines, library administrators and information services staff will need to emphasize those statements appropriate to their particular library, its mission, and the community it services, and they should strive to realize the goals expressed in those statements.
These guidelines address information services from the following perspectives:
1.1 The goal of information service is to provide an end-product: the information sought by the user. Information service should not only meet but also anticipate user needs. It should encourage user awareness of the potential of information resources to fulfill individual information needs.
1.2 The library should develop directional, informational, and research services consistent with the goals of the institution or community it serves.
1.3 The library should provide users with complete, accurate answers to their information queries regardless of the complexity of those queries.
1.4 The library should make available user aids in print and other media to help users identify items in the collection relevant to their interests and needs. Access guides can list library hours, services, floor plans, and other pertinent data about the individual building(s). Guides can also offer assistance in using particular resources or in performing research in a specific subject area.
1.5 The library should provide instruction in the effective use of its resources. Such instruction can range from the individual explanation of information resources or creation of guides in appropriate media to formal assistance through interpretive tours and group presentation designed to provide guidance and direction in the pursuit of information.
1.6 The library should actively publicize the scope, nature, and availability of the information services it offers. It should employ those media most effective in reaching its entire clientele or selected segments of that clientele.
1.7 The library should survey and assess the information needs of its community and create local information products to fulfill those needs not met by published materials.
1.8 The library should serve its community by collecting and creating information and referral files to provide access to the services and resources of local, regional, and state organizations.
1.9 Based on its clients known needs and interests, the library should provide information even if it has not been explicitly requested.
1.10 When information is not immediately useful as presented in its source, the library should add value to that information. This process of adding value can range from simply sorting and packaging the information to reviewing and analyzing it for library clients as appropriate.
1.11 The librarys building should not be a boundary to its information services. It should identify and employ external databases, agencies, and services to help meet the information needs of its community.
1.12 The library should participate in consortia and networks to obtain access to information sources and services it cannot provide on its own.
1.13 When the library is not able to provide a client with needed information, it should refer either the client or the clients questions to some other agency, an expert, or other library which can provide the needed information. Before referring a client to an agency, expert or other library, information services personnel should confirm that the agency, expert, or library to which the client is being referred can indeed provide the information and will extend its services to that user. When a question is referred to another agency, the referring library should follow all local, state, regional, or national protocols in effect, including those governing selection of transmittal forms (e.g., the Information Request Form) and communications media.
1.14 The library should use or provide access to information systems outside the library when these systems meet information needs more effectively and efficiently than internal resources can.
1.15 The library should develop and make available to the public a statement that describes the information services it strives to offer all members of its community.
2.1 The library should collect or provide access to information resources germane to its mission and reflecting the interests of the full spectrum of the population it serves. These information resources should satisfy, through content, currency, format, organization, and quantity a diversity of user needs.
2.2 The library should develop an information resources collection and access development policy consistent with the goals of its institution or community.
2.3 As necessary, information services personnel should reach beyond reference collections to tap the resources of the library as a whole. To provide the information their users need, they should also reach beyond in-house collections and in-house expertise by drawing on the resources of other organizations that collect and provide information, by consulting individual experts, and by tapping external information sources regardless of their medium.
2.4 The library should provide access to the most current reference sources available in order to assure the accuracy of information.
2.5 In anticipation of users needs, the library should identify outside information systems, organizations, and individual experts it can call upon or refer users to when the information sources available to the library fail to meet a users information needs.
2.6 The library should evaluate individual resources within the collection based upon professional standards and users needs. It should also evaluate its information resources as a unified information system, including in-house print and non-print as well as accessible external resources.
3.1 The library should arrange information services according to a coherent plan, taking into account ready accessibility to users. The information services workspace should be large enough to accommodate staff, the collection of information resources, equipment necessary for accessing all media represented in the collection, communications and other equipment, and users seeking their services.
3.2 The library should have signs that clearly identify its services and unambiguously direct users to areas where they can obtain assistance in finding the information they seek.
3.3 The library should make service areas for information services highly visible and readily
accessible to all users.
3.4 The library should support state-of-the-art communications methods for access to information resources for users, whether within or outside its building(s).
3.5 The library should design service points to accommodate the needs of all users, including disabled users.
3.6 The library should provide appropriate equipment in adequate quantities and in good working order for the convenient, efficient consultation of local and remote information resources by staff and the public. This includes communications hardware and software to receive and answer queries for information from users.
3.7 Operating hours for information services should be a product of the communitys needs and behavior and the librarys financial and personnel resources.
3.8 The library should staff information service points with sufficient qualified personnel during the hours that best meet the information needs of the community.
4.1 The library should staff information services in such a way as to meet the communitys expectations and anticipate its needs.
4.2 Information service staff members must communicate easily and effectively with the full range of the librarys clientele regardless of a clients age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference, or English-language proficiency.
4.3 Information services staff must have knowledge and preparation appropriate to meet the information needs of the clientele the library serves. Personnel responsible for the services should be thoroughly familiar with and competent in using information sources, information storage and retrieval techniques, and interpersonal communication skills.
4.4 Continuing education of information service personnel is basic to professional growth. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek continuing education and of the employing institution to support its staffs continuing education efforts and, when possible, to provide continuing education programs.
5.1 The library should regularly evaluate its information service to assure that the service furthers the institutions goals and that the goals reflect the needs and interests of the community served. Results of evaluations should be used to determine the optimum allocation of resources to provide quality service.
5.2 The library should integrate the perspective of staff and community in the overall evaluation procedure for information service.
5.3 The library should evaluate resources in terms of their contribution to meeting the communitys information needs.
5.4 In its evaluation of information services, the library should emphasize those factors most important to the community using those services. Among these are response time; accessibility of services (in terms of physical access, convenience of location, convenience of service hours); the value and effectiveness of instructional programs; the validity of referrals made; the effectiveness of services for various groups among the population served; and effectiveness in anticipating its communitys needs.
5.5 The library should conduct evaluative studies using techniques and measures that will yield data comparable to those from similar institutions and addressing such national norms or common standards as may exist, modified, if necessary, by local needs.
5.6 The library should gather statistics for use in evaluation. These statistics should be based on both measures of input (e.g., number of volumes, number of staffing hours, or number of online connect hours) and of output (e.g., number of questions answered, number of volumes used, number of citations downloaded) of information service programs.
5.7 The library should appraise the performance of individual information service staff members and of the collective performance of that staff at regular intervals, using recognized personnel evaluation techniques and instruments agreed to in advance by those to be evaluated and those performing the evaluation.
6.1 The American Library Associations Code of Ethics (as stated in the ALA Policy Manual in the ALA Handbook of Organization) governs the conduct of all staff members providing information service.
Prepared by the Standards and Guidelines Committee, Reference and Adult Services Division, American Library Association, Adopted by the Reference and Adult Services Division Board of Directors, June 1990, and submitted to the ALA Standards Committee for review.