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Responses to the question: Does your library offer remote reference and information services?

On April 7th, I posed this question to five: SLA-ENG, PAMNET, STS-L, ILI-L, and ELDNET-L:

Academic librarians traditionally liaise to their subject departments of responsibility while working out of offices in their institution's library building(s). Team meetings for those responsible for providing Reference, Collection Development, and Bibliographic Instruction Services are also usually held within that single location as well.

Question: Are there any academic institutions where liaison librarians are offering off-library, remote or satellite service, and whose use offices for this service which are located physically in a subject department, along with that department's researchers, course instructors, graduate students and classroom teaching facilities, away from the library building? Are there any subject/liaison librarians whose offices are in fact permanently located in their subject department(s)?

We are considering the benefits and disadvantages that could be realized by being resident within the subject department, and possible services that could be provided better.

The following responses were received, and with the authors' permissions, I am posting them here.

PLEASE NOTE: E-mail addresses are included, but are protected from spamming by being buried in a java script.

You may discuss these responses by submitting a comment at the end of the posting. Also, I apologize if I have incorrectly listed anyone's address, e-mail, etc. If you spot an error, please let me know.

1) Dear Randy,

Our entire library, and my office area within it, are located within the Astronomy Department. The main part of the library is on the sixth floor, with a storage/rare books room one floor below. The department office is very close to the library (5th floor) and most of the offices of department members are clustered nearby, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors of the building. My "office", per say, is a work space-- consisting of desk, computer desk, book shelves and supply cabinet-- centrally located in the library itself. Though, at times, it would be nice to have a more private and less visible space (to make phone calls, hide my work clutter, process new materials), the benefits of being visible and accessible outweigh these drawbacks.

I know that both I and the faculty/grad students/scientists benefit from this close contact. I often help library patrons (primarily faculty) because I can see that they need it; they often won't ask for help but are grateful when I step in to assist. Though department members have keys and use the library when I am not in, they often come back in to ask me for help if they had been unable to locate materials alone. I use the closeness of our spaces to go and visit departmental patrons when I have questions. I could email or call, but I seize the opportunity to further personal relationships and encourage collaboration. In fact, I often hear about needs, problems, or materials requests only after I have stopped by to ask a question or run into someone in the halls or kitchen.

The library, though small, is greatly prized by the department and is "shown off" to perspective grad students. A new grad recently commented that the fact that there was an astronomy library in the department was taken positively into account as she rated graduate schools. At least some of the faculty worry that the library may eventually be absorbed by one of the larger libraries on campus, such as the Physics Library in an adjacent building. Though I do not think this is likely, I take it to show the faculty do value their library and the convenience of having it in the department. We will certainly be prepared to 'fight', if necessary, for an in-department library space when our building is completely renovated in '05.

The sole librarian position has been a half-time Project Assistantship, reserved for a PhD student in the library school, for the past several years. This model benefits the student by providing hands-on library experience and paying for tuition, and benefits the department by cutting personnel costs. Aside from the difficulties inherent in the frequent turnover of the position, it is often not possible to find applicants with an astronomy, or even science background. For this reason, the Library Committee (four faculty and the librarian) plays a vital role in materials selection. About once a year, the librarian compiles information about potential items for purchase which are then "graded" by committee members to help the librarian make final decisions. The library committee is also expected to bring recommendations back from conferences and point out gaps in the collection. All department members are encouraged to make recommendations and I frequently ask patrons for input. This is facilitated by my physical location within the department.

Since the library is in the department, I have been able to easily provide course-specific bibliographic instruction by simply stepping into a classroom adjacent to the library. And I can deliver, in person, books (and articles) that were recalled or specially requested, further enhancing service for the patron and their appreciation of the library. I hope this information is useful. I would be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Erin Meyer-Blasing, Librarian
Woodman Astronomical Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison
6521 Sterling Hall
475 North Charter Street
Madison, WI 53706
phone:(608) 262-1320
fax: (608) 263-6386


2) Hi Randy,

We in the Science & Engineering Library at the Univ. of Minnesota -- Twin Cities were issued laptop computers in order to initiate "mobile librarian" pilot projects. For my project, I chose to hold office hours within the Geology Department from 1-3 every Wednesday afternoon. To me, it has been a great success. I have had opportunities to talk with faculty that I otherwise would have never had (they ask a question that's on their minds because they see me; they would not have taken the time to call or email me otherwise); I have developed ongoing relationships with grad students and am assisting them as their needs change and their work progresses (questions about copyright, setting up an online reprint archive for use by a research group, setting up an SDI service on Current Contents, etc.); and have been able to customize instruction to the specific assignments of the undergrads (those who come get 30-45 minutes of my full attention if needed). The service is much more personal than working across a reference desk -- we establish rapport, and I provide support and encouragement as well as tips on where and how to search.

I "reside" in a departmental reading room (their old branch library!) and use a wireless connection and a backup battery (I found I barely covered two hours with my regular battery). Students must walk through this room to get to the computer lab, so I am visible. During slow periods I focus on collection development and other responsibilities related to geology (web page development,serial analysis) -- I am better able to focus on these subject-specific activities away from my library office.

One caveat -- the geology department is small (about 25 faculty, 75 grads). Direct email reference has gone up since I started this (several question per week), and I prepare for instruction sessions if students contact me ahead of time -- so I spend more than 2 hours per week on the service. I'm not sure how scalable this is for a large department. Some of my colleagues will be finding out -- one will focus on mechanical engineering.

Hope this helps.


Janice M. Jaguszewski
Head of Collections
& Geology Librarian
Science & Engineering Library
University of Minnesota
108 Walter Library Phone: (612) 626-0557
Minneapolis, MN 55455 Fax: (612) 625-5525

3) Hi Randy,

I do Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mathematics library lectures in their respective buildings. Although we have two teaching rooms here in the library, I get a better response when I teach in the School's buildings. I also go to Savannah to teach faculty and students at our branch campus at least once a year. It may be a bit of a hassle coordinating with IT (not the library IT), lugging equipment (sometimes), getting network access in the grad computer clusters, scheduling space, but I think it's well worth it, and my attendance stats. back me up.

A couple of my colleagues have office hours over in their School's buildings (Management and History of Technology and Society). I'm not sure how much business they get. I could ask for you. I thought about trying that, but decided against it 1. because space is at a premium here at Tech, and 2. I might miss a drop-in grad student who would be looking for me at my office.

So, taking your show on the road may be a good thing to try.

I hope that this helps, and always remember, what works for one School (discipline), may not work at all for another.

Regards, Pat Johnston
Georgia Institute of Technology
404 894-1393

4) Randy,

The Head of our Engineering and Science Library forwarded your message to me because I'm involved in the types of services you described. For a few years now, once per week I go over to the business school on campus and provide reference service on site. This is enhanced by our campus having a wireless network. What it seems to depend on is being in a VISIBLE, high traffic area. (We have one other liaison librarian here who does on-site reference, but his numbers are lower, and we think this is primarily because

I answer as many one-on-one business questions there as I do when I do a regular desk shift in the main library, which is only a stone's throw away from the b-school. I also have been involved in doing bibliographic instruction via satellite as part of classes in the school's distance education program. Since many of the b-school distance ed students are groups of students from particular corporations, I often contact the corporate librarian at that site (if there is one), and find out what resources employees have to access from work, and also talk about the remote access the students have to our library's databases and print materials. Typically I create a web page to support those BI sessions, and they are not stand-alone, but are situated in one of the class sessions and address specific assignments. That way the students can find out what resources they can use and see them demonstrated. The satellite allows for two-way communication with several sites in turn, but it is in no way like real-time classes; it feels like those old videos of space travel, where you can see the astronaut move but hear the audio on a few seconds delay. Here's an example of one of those class support web pages: http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/~adele/45790m2.html.

One of the most important components of either of these two activities is to be involved in the orientation sessions for on-campus and distance education students. When we have distance ed students to campus, I at least get a 5 minute introduction to tell the students there are resources and they can contact me and/or the library when they have questions. Often I have slightly more time, and the ability to back it up with a personalized letter (with photo of me) in their orientation packets.


Adele Barsh
Business & Economics Librarian
Carnegie Mellon University Libraries

5) Dear Randy,

I am the Astronomy and Physics Librarian at Caltech, but my office and my library are in the Astronomy Department's academic building. My physics collection is in the central library and my physics faculty are in at least four different buildings. I can tell you that makes a big difference. It is effortless for me to stay connected to the astronomy faculty, staff, and students, as well as to departmental events, news, and even gossip. It's also easy for me to ask questions of them and to deliver information and services. The departmental "tea" before our weekly astronomy seminar is held in the library. This is all good. It is a struggle to keep close tabs on the use of the physics collection and to keep up with who's who and what is what in the physics department with regard to their information needs. I would be very sad if this library were consolidated into the main collection; it would be such a loss of service and liaise benefits. In fact, my astronomy faculty misses me and notices and complains if I am pulled away too much to staff the reference desks in the larger libraries on campus.

Of course, I think that modern technology has done wonders to enhance this situation over what it was twenty years ago. Our cataloging and acquisitions are done for me, and the online catalog includes all materials in all the libraries. Our online journals are accessed from desktops so my astronomers don't have to leave the building if they want to see a physics journal, for instance.

Kind Regards,


Caroline Smith
Astronomy and Physics Librarian
105-24 Caltech
Pasadena, CA 91125

6) Hi Randy,

I'm one of those librarians whose office is in the Rossier School of Education and not in the library. I'm going to attach the handout that I have for the ACRL conference April 2003. Let me know if you can't access it. We are called "field librarians" --not a title I would choose. Listed on the handout are two librarians from U. of Mich who are also field librarians. The other field librarians I know are are Ed Lener (lener@vt.edu) of the College Librarian for the Sciences, Virginia Tech and Margaret C. Merrill (mmerrill@vt.edu) College Librarian for Agriculture and the Life Sciences also at Virginia Tech. Let me know if you'd like me to send you a paper copy of my most recent article that I wrote with Stephanie Davis titled "High Tech, High Touch: Providing personalized Service on Users' Turf." It's listed in the Bibliography under Davis.

Cheers! Linda

7) Randy,

I'm liaison for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Wright State University. The college maintains a small reading room of professional journals, distinct from the library collection. The room is the same size as an associate faculty member's office. I've adopted the reading room as an external office. I spend 2 hours/week there.

The primary benefit has been greater visibility. I get questions and plan search strategies from faculty I haven't been able to meet with. I've learned much about student and faculty needs through casual conversation. (The room is directly across from the elevators and I start conversations while they are waiting for the lift.) I've met many graduate students and Ph.D. candidates I would not have met otherwise. Students have discovered the practical benefits of reference assistance and I've seen a three-fold increase in appointments at the library spinning off of questions and observations at the reading room office.

I've found an office in the college very useful. We've been careful not to call the reading room a "branch." If you have questions please call on me.

Phil Flynn, Engineering Librarian
Wright State University
Dayton, OH 45431
(937) 775-2533

8) There are a few articles that have been written about VT's experience with this, now nearly 10 year old.

From the perspective of an engineering librarian: it didn't work well for us! However, the humanities and social sciences, as well as business, agriculture, etc. seem to have welcomed librarians into their areas. Librarians there seem to have a lot of interaction with their constituents.

However, our engineering program is large (>6,000 students) and scattered over several buildings. There was no central location where the engineering librarian could have an on-site office. We tried the on-site office for about 3 years, but have now reverted to having our offices in the library.

Another problem was that some of our engineering professors were actually closer to the library, than they were to our on-site office. Why come to our office when it was quicker to go to the library.

Finally, the building we were located in was primarily for mechanical/aerospace/chemical engineering departments. The wing we were located in was primarily for mechanical engineering, and that's the main department that would drop into the office for help. Other engineering departments had no real reason to come into that building, so we saw very little of them there.

As with any instruction/outreach activity, I think this has to be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the various departments.

Hope this helps. If you have any specific questions, I'd be glad to try to answer them.


Larry Thompson 540-231-8693 (Voice)
Engineering Librarian 540-231-7808 (Fax)
Virginia Tech

9) From: Liz Mengel

I have office hours in one of the buildings on campus that is fairly far away from the library. They have a reading room in the building, which is where I set up my laptop. I'm there once a week for 1.5 hours over the lunch. The reading room is located near the kitchen so lunch is a good time to be there. I can't say I'm busy every single moment I'm there, or that I have questions every time I'm there, but I think what it shows in my willingness to meet them on their ground was a big deal for them. It also provides a casual opportunity to talk to students of all levels and faculty, many who have lunch at the tables outside the kitchen area. I tend to take work with me that just deals with that department when I'm there.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have further questions.


Liz Mengel
Resource Services Librarian
Science and Engineering
Johns Hopkins University
Milton S. Eisenhower Library

10) This semester, I've been experimenting with a service I've called "Librarian On-Site" for the engineering faculty. The engineering library closed about five years ago, due to funding issues, and merged into Taylor library, which is now the Engineering, Medical, and Science library.

Unfortunately, it's also on the opposite side of campus from the engineering faculty.

Now that we have a strong electronic database and journal collection, I thought that it might be worthwhile to go to the engineers, rather than expecting them to come to me.

For this semester, I've been "camping out" in a seminar room in the engineering building with a networked laptop. The faculty are very positive about this service, and have recommended it to their grad students.

I got a lot of business right after I sent out a notice about the service, and again when I reminded people that I exist, and that the service was ending at the end of the semester, but it looks like there's a _lot_ of marketting required to make sure that people think of the service when they need it. For a couple of weeks, it was an opportunity for me to clean out my email inbox and catch up on paperwork.

The promotional flier I sent out is on the web at (at least for the time being).

- David

David J. Fiander | ph: (519)661-2111 ext 86369
Allyn & Betty Taylor Library | fax: 661-3435
University of Western Ontario | http://www.lib.uwo.ca/taylor/

11) Hi Randy,

We don’t exactly offer remote services but something similar.

Our library used to be a Teachers College but we are now part of the University. The Library has been kept, and changed into a specialist Education Library as part of the Central Library. The Education Library is in the School of Education buildings and so very handy for lecturers to pop in or for us to visit them. This happens quite often, but depends on the lecturer and the librarian as to how the liaison works. Many lecturers come in weekly to look at the new book and new journal displays and I often make a point of talking to them when they come in. Also many of our lecturers are doing further study and/or research and often come in for help.

Also we have a shared Common Room so a lot of liaison gets done ‘over a cuppa’. Some would say this is good – others prefer to have their breaks as breaks.

Yvonne Milbank
Education Liaison Librarian
The Education Library
The University of Waikato
Private Bag 3105
Phone 07 838 4466 ext 7829

Note: In an e-mail received from Yvonne on 17 October 2004, she advised me that the information in her comment above is out-of-date, and therefore no longer applicable. - Randy

12) Hi Randy

I maintained office hours in the Psychology department for many years. I had to negotiate with the Library and the department to make that happen. Department provided me with the space and the library provided the computer linked to library resources. I was in the department two hours a week. I found this to be very useful as a walk in service where faculty, staff and students could walk in with a question. It was more important for me to be seen as part of the department and I attended as many of the student and faculty seminars as possible on top of the hours. I had a mailbox in the department. I walked up and down the corridors to make sure people saw me. This service was so successful that many students thought my office in the academic department was my main office. When I answered their e-mail questions, they had no idea from where I was answering!!

I was also the Liaison Librarian for Sociology and serviced Women's Studies. Luckily all of these are housed in the same building and I could help them as well. Took some negotiating in the beginning but has paid off very well. Currently a Contract Librarian is doing Liaison work for Psychology. As the office hours had been set, he had no problem continuing with what had been established

Please let me know if you need any more from me


Management Team Information Services and Resources
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
Voice: 519-888-4567 Library X2882
Fax : 519-888-4324

13) Randy --

Virginia Tech's College Librarian program places subject librarians into offices in the colleges where they provide a variety of services to faculty, students and staff. The program was begun in 1994 with 4 librarians and has grown to the point where there are now 12 College Librarians serving six colleges. (There are also two colleges with branch libraries which are managed by librarians.)

Though it varies depending on the College, most of the CLs spend the bulk of their time on teaching with reference consulting and collection management also part of the mix. Paul Metz and I wrote an article about the program that appeared in the July 2002 issue of C&RL; it outlines the benefits and challenges of such a program, but I'd also be glad to answer any specific questions you might have. For us, the program has been wonderful as it has changed the way that our constituent groups view our librarians and has provided some excellent opportunities for collaboration that I'm not sure we would have had without the program.

Nan Seamans

Nan Seamans
Director of Instruction and Outreach
University Libraries
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0434
540/231-2708 /

14) Randy-

This is a topic I've been interested in for a long time. We've talked, very informally, about it, but there doesn't seem to be a resounding 'hurrah' on the part of most of the reference staff here. On the other hand, I mentioned the idea to two teaching faculty in a department I report to and they thought it was the greatest thing they'd ever heard of. Coincidentally, our department is talking this Friday about improving outreach to faculty, and office hours in departments is one of the topics to be discussed. Like most things these days, I guess we'd have to do some kind of cost-benefit analysis to determine its feasibility.

I have three citations for you: 1) notes from a presentation called "Meeting Their Needs: Moving Library Instruction to the Academic Departments," by Marcia King-Blandford and John Phillips at the University of Toledo

2) notes from a presentation called "Taking Instruction to Where it is Used: Tutoring Faculty in their Offices," by Eugene Engeldinger and Michael Love, Carthage College, 6/6/98

3) Internet Rx Office Visits: Just What the Dr. Ordered by Nancy Stimson and Nancy Schiller, CRL News, 12/96, p723+

I don' t know if either of the first two were turned into articles (I think I recieved powerpoint prints of them at a LOEX conference) but if you'd like to look them over, I'd be happy to copy and send to you.

Laurie Sabol
Library Instruction Coordinator
Tisch Library at Tufts University
Medford MA

15) Randy,

Here at Willamette University, we do have a liaison program established for satellite library service to our departments. I was fortunate enough to have been hired as the Science Librarian/Liaison after this program was established; many of the kinks were worked out long before I arrived, thanks to my predecessor.

Here are the basics: We have seven librarians who are departmental liaisons, and each of us has our specialized subject areas for which we are responsible. Some librarians provide office hours in different building throughout campus. The problem we have had (and still have) is where to house these office hours. We don't have "official" offices complete with computers (which are nearly essential for dealing with the type of questions we face), nor do we share offices with faculty (another option we haven't fully explored). My predecessor did have office hours in a vacant office, which is now filled.

One creative way we have been able to cope with this lack of workspace is hanging out in the computer lab with the students. Computer labs are where students write their papers, where they look up library material in our catalog, and where they spend their "free time" emailing friends or surfing the web for various information.

Speaking from my own personal experience, the benefits of staying in the computer lab outweigh the benefits of having a personal office. I experimented a little with different locations when I first came to Willamette, and I found that students are more likely to approach me with questions when I am right in their midst and where they are working -- basically the highly trafficked computer labs and student lounge areas.

To answer the original question, and to provide a little perspective, let me describe the setting. I station myself in two computer labs (biology & chemistry) and one hearth area (in the Physics department, which does not have a computer). These are all located in their respective departments. Departmental researchers, lab instructors, faculty, students are all located in these areas; they see me when they go to class, when they walk down the hall, when they use the computers, etc.

- Are the departmental liaisons offering out-of-library, remote service? Yes.
- Are we located physically in a subject department along with researchers, instructors, students, & teaching facilities? Yes.
- Are we away from the library building? Yes.
- Do we have "permanently located" offices in our subject departments? While I do not have a physical office of my own, I would actually equate the areas I mentioned above to "permanent" office locations.

I think that I prefer working where I am now instead of being hidden away from the students and faculty. I also provide the times that I am available at the reference desk, and if they are really urgent, they track me down by email or phone or in person (and all three ways in some cases). Hope this answers your question. Let me know if I can be of any other service!

John Repplinger
Science Librarian-Liaison
Willamette University

16) Willamette University's Science Librarian has held scheduled office hours inside the Chemistry/Biology building for about 5 years. It was fueled by a confluence of hiring our first science librarian near the time that our campus opened up its brand new building dedicated to several of our science programs. Along with the fact that our new librarian had maintained office hours in a similar fashion, at the previous employer's campus, and was eager to offer it on a pilot basis in the new building.

A year after we saw its success with our science librarian, we asked our MBA school if they would consider a similar venture, with our Management & Economics Librarian, also as a pilot program.

Once we figured out which room we would use in the two buildings to hold our office hours, it was relatively easy to get approval from the Library, as well as from the relevant departments.

The ease of getting acceptance stems from three major factors.

First, the Hatfield Library has been progressive in introducing new services as pilot programs. We do not run formal cost benefit analyses, unless there are explicit costs that cannot be covered by our regular operating budget. If a pilot program does not meet expectations, the trial may be modified, or possibly shut down. Luckily, we have seldom had failures in offering new services, or extending specialized services to broader audiences.

Second, we had faculty involved in our search committees when we were filling vacancies for our Science Librarian, and the Management & Economics Librarian. Faculty from relevant departments attended the research presentations of all of the candidates who were interviewed for our subject specialiist librarians. And we tried to include visits with other department faculty in the day long interview with these candidates. Thus, the faculty

Third, we had facilities available in both the science building, and the management building, where we could meet with students or faculty, and have access to computers connected to the Internet, so that we could offer on the spot & customized demonstrations of the library's databases.

Doing this site specific outreach raises awareness across the campus about the library & librarians, since we are not bound by the walls of our building (and we do bump into professors & administrators who jokingly question why we are outside of the library).

The results of this outreach are clearly different between the sciences and the management buildings since the MBA program mandated all of their students to own wireless computers. Since I started scheduling office hours in the business school's computer lab, usage patterns of that room greatly changed when our graduate program went wireles! Lately, our MBA students use the computer room more as a quiet study room, or for small group meetings, than for its array of hard wired computers. But the students know me from my office hours, and ask for me more often by name inside the library, since I began keeping a schedule in their building.

Additionally, my scheduled presence in the MBA school has clearly made an impression on their faculty & staff, who were otherwise located on the opposite of the campus from the library. Now, I frequently receive requests from administrative & clerical staff about the library's databases and other resources, which has clearly increased their usage of our video collection, ILL services, full text databases, and a better understanding of how the library & computer services can help them perform their administrative & clerical duties.

Faculty in both sciences & business have greatly increased referring students to their liaison librarians by name, by phone, and by email.

Students have less excuses to claim "I could not find the librarian", when we hold office hours next to their classrooms, and faculty offices. And we post our office hours, phone & email contact info on the windows of the offices we use. Back in the library, we post our weekly schedule at the entrance to our cubicles, so there is no question of where we are, or when we might be available for an appointment with a student.

There also has to be some flexibility of deviating from the posted schedules when people are out sick, certain meetings require your attendance, or when helping someone with a very complex & lengthy information problem.

When we give library instruction sessions to classes, we always give out our contact info, and post our general campus schedule, as well as our specific office hours at those satelite locations (just like faculty who post their tentative schedule on their office doors).

But some folks just don't get to a librarian until a day before their project is due. Those procrastinators have less excuses than ever before, of not getting hold of a librarian, when we have been working in the same building where they take or teach their classes!

Librarian for Management, Economics, Education and Psychology
Hatfield Library / Willamette University / Salem, OR 97301 USA
work #503-370-6743 home #503-463-7131

17) Randy:

We were just talking about faculty liaison work at a brown bag session today and I think we have three librarians who have offices in the Main Library but hold regularly scheduled office hours in academic buildings outside of the Main Library. None of them have permanent offices in these buildings. They have had varying degrees of success from little response to a number of people showing up and using the service. This is something that they have done on their own or in consultation with other selectors since MSU Libraries does not have a policy about librarians holding office hours in academic buildings.

Tom Volkening
Engineering Librarian
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: 517-432-1498
Fax: 517-353-9041

18) I realize this isn't "exactly" answering the question asked. However, in the spirit of the question, I believe our experience has value.

We opened a branch engineering library (20,000 square feet) in October 2000 situated in the heart of a new addition to the College of Engineering main campus building. Our branch is focused on electronic delivery of information, so our print resources are scant. We have about 600 volumes of reference material and 150 journals--most print materials are not available electronically. The main method of delivering information is through the 24 computer workstations and our wireless network which can be accessed by anyone with a laptop w/ a wireless card. Patrons know that historic print resources require a trip to the main library.

Physically being in the same building as our subject departments creates an entirely different relationship with the faculty as compared to the previous experience being located in the main campus library. Not only are you available as questions arise, but by building the social interaction that stems from contact in the library, the hallway, the staff room and such, you build an even better basis for the faculty to further increase the academic interaction--large and small. I can drop by the departments to check on small things without making an 'appointment' or a special trip across campus. Faculty have begun to request more instructional sessions about library resources than they had requested previously. I am included in far more faculty meetings than ever before; I perceive being viewed more as a colleague than an outsider.

I heartily recommend the concept of establishing a regular presence in the departments. I realize opening a whole branch library isn't in the picture for most schools. I believe the benefits of a regular availability will really pay off.


Alice Trussell, Director
Fiedler Engineering Library
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas
(785) 532-7845--office
(785) 532-3764--library

19) Hi Randy- I'm doing this in a small way... although my title is "Economics/Data" librarian, I work in our Management Library and most of my patron contact is with people at the Business School. I have been doing presentations with their Career Management Center for a little while, and at the end of one of those we were talking about what other initiatives we might do together - and almost simultaneously came up with the notion of my spending some time over at their place, providing information services. They have their own little "library" as part of their office suite (quite a large space, actually). They stay late on Tuesdays, my evening reference shift has always been Tuesday. Why not just "do my shift" at their place? It was perfect serendipity!

This is my second semester of doing "satellite service," and I think it's a valid thing to do: - the students are much more aware of who I am, greeting me by name, and seeking me out at other times (phone, email, or at my home base) - I'm not overwhelmed, but I've worked with anywhere from 1-7 people during my 2 hour shift (4:30-6:30). Sitting at the library on Tuesday nights I hardly ever saw a soul! (or at least one that needed my help!) - so much information is online that I've had no problems with not having a physical collection available; also, with so much of the job being electronically based, if I don't have "customers" there's still lots of work I can do, I don't just sit there. - a big part of the reason it works is because the Career Management Staff are all very supportive, and *wants* me there. They have done and continue to market the fact that I'm there every Tuesday (when we first started, they plastered the b-school with a poster with my photograph and the catch line: "Do you know this woman?" oy! ;) but it got people's attention!) Also, because I am a presenter in a program that all the students go thru in the business school, they have all seen me in action - the talk is about company and industry research, and I go thru a bunch of databases. This gives them some idea that I might have something to offer them, and I think that's important. Until they see you in action, there's no reason for them to seek you out. Google is much easier in all respects!

So - the department has to be really on-board for it to work; you need to be able to demonstrate your value; the satellite office has be somewhere where people really are, not stuck off in a corner; and regular accounting of activity is good. I write down every interaction I have. If no one makes use of the opportunity, why do it? If it's just not needed, don't keep doing it. (There's always the danger of a not-highly-motivated person who wants to do this just to get away from the library and sort of goof off for a while.)

phew. Sorry, it's really a small bit of outreach, but I seem to have written a LOT-! ;)

I think it's a neat thing to do. Good luck at your place!


Suzanne Bell, Economics/Data Librarian
University of Rochester

20) Randy:

Hi. I have 2 hours/week ("office hours") within the English Department here at UW. Basically, I share an office with one of the faculty members on a day when she does not teach.

I believe it's unusual--I don't know of any other subject specialist who does this here. It was easy for me to arrange, as the English specialist before me had taken the plunge and set it up while she was teaching a research course within the Department. I had hoped it would give me better access to the faculty and graduate students. Unfortunately, it really hasn't worked out that way. I've tried having the hours a couple of different times/days of the week, hoping to run into more people. However, the faculty have a wide range of office hours and don't "hang out" in the office much outside of these hours. They have access to my hours from a departmental website (all are posted there), but I still haven't had many people stop by with questions or concerns. Email seems to work better.

As for the graduate students, I've found recently that by playing on the departmental softball team, I'm getting to know them better than I have by visiting the department. Thanks to softball, I'm picking up more instructional sessions than ever before!

Hope this helps.


My thanks to everyone who contributed a response to the question. The information shared will give us new ideas to consider when we begin planning for on-site service in the Faculty of Engineering sometime later this year, or in 2004. - Randy


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Responses to the question: Does your library offer remote reference and information services?:

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The first post on this site addressed off-library, on-site reference and information services. Courtesy of Mel DeSart at U Washington comes word of a similar service being offered at Lamont Library of the Harvard College Library.... [Read More]


Very good reading. We are piloting a few hours in academic departments here at Univ. at Buffalo so it's very much on our radar scope as reference desk activity continues to ebb. I'd like to suggest a change of terminology. It seems to me that we should
be calling this 'on-site' reference, not 'off-site' reference. It's off-site for us, but for our patrons it's on their site and isn't that the

[previously sent to Randy via email]
Dear Randy,
I appreciate your attempts at setting up a blog. I think it is a nice site and your intentions of saving listserv readers time and creating a space for discussion were good. I guess you never know what will spark enough discussion to warrant a blog. Sending aggregate responses in one long email, especially one with a clear introduction like yours, is fine too!

I'm glad that you will be pursuing service within the engineering department. I think you and your patrons will benefit. I hope to see an update on PAMnet once the project is underway!


This is a timely. I'm concerned about an impending remodel that will move me from a nicely visible office (facing Science Reference room) to a more hidden space. Thanks for all the good ideas about how I might go to the science depts and regain some visibility.

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