or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Annual Review & Reference Dept. Goals

   May 29th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I had my Annual Review last week, for which I had to come up with goals for the Reference Department for the coming year (my library is a July 1st-June 30th fiscal year). Since these goals pretty much shape my daily work life in the library, which in turns shapes what I end up posting here, I thought sharing these goals might be interesting.

I'm happy to report that I got a great review - I am very lucky to be working in a well-funded and progressive library. Something else I noticed while working on this: with all the talk about, and effort I put into, using Library 2.0 tools, there is still a heck a lot of a public librarian's job that Library 2.0 doesn't address. Which is a good thing to realize, I think.

I have a few comments (of course) on the various goals, which are footnoted. This is also available as a non-footnoted pdf.

Reference Department Goals for FY2008

  1. Improve patron access to library materials1
    • Look for ways to improve access to the collection
      • Weed and refine print reference materials for better coordination with non-fiction collection (possibly interfile reference books with non-fiction books)
      • Keep reference collection weeded, shelf-read and up-to-date
      • Continue to work with Tech Services to improve standing order list and procedures2
      • Implement a continual review of non-fiction collection, including assigning sections to staff members for weeding, shelf-reading, straightening, ordering suggestions, etc. Try to find an automated tool (perhaps FileMaker) to make weeding easier and more accurate
      • Improve organization and access to periodicals collection by creating a comprehensive, up-to-date and dynamic periodicals listing, referencing both print and online access3
      • Add more website "Subject Guides" in a format most suitable for patron “findability”
      • Continue promoting database usage through existing methods (bookmarks, signs, links, staff training, etc.) as well as new technologies (federated searching4, etc.)
    • Continue with website improvements, both to Reference section and all of website
      • Look for new tools or technologies to make adding and maintaining content easier5
      • Strive for entire website to meet both design goals and accessibility standards6
      • Continue to offer direct work and assistance on other areas of website (Reading Room, Children’s Mural page, etc.)
      • Evaluate "site search" feature
    • Provide better indexing of and access to the Vertical File
    • Look at options to improve security in and use of the Oversize area
    • Work with Barbara Morrison on patron-related technology issues, such as timer software for public computers, internet access issues, printing from wireless computers, etc.
    • Continue to refine tax forms offerings and organization
  2. Continue to improve desk area and operations
    • Ensure all procedures and policies are documented and easily available to desk staff
    • Review new technologies to see if paper-based methods can be improved upon7
    • Continue looking for areas of the desk that can be cleaned or better organized
  3. Concentrate on professional development
    • Keep current on journals, literature and blogs, for articles, book reviews and library trends
    • Attend MVLC, NMRLS, NELA and other regional reference meetings8
    • Participate in staff, local, regional and national training opportunities
      • Promote training opportunities to staff9

Brian Herzog
Head of Reference


  1. This year, I am making no distinction between print and electronic sources when it comes to "library materials." Last year I did, but I think that is unnecessary and does patrons (and ourselves) a disservice - back to note 1
  2. Perhaps this is blasphemous, but I really don't enjoy doing selection very much. I find standing orders very efficient, which leaves me more time to find the valuable but unusual and oddball reference works - back to note 2
  3. I wish our catalog was better at this, but it's just not. Hopefully, when we migrate away from Horizon, we'll get an ILS that works the way a library needs - back to note 3
  4. Ditto from note 3 - back to note 4
  5. We've just begun this process, and have gotten most of our current homepage design reworked using XHTML 1.0 Strict coding standards - back to note 5
  6. My goal here is to find a content management system that allows people with no coding skills to update our website. This should be an easy thing, as there's lots of software options, and it would make everyone's jobs easier (and our site look and perform better). However, just getting staff buy-in has been difficult - people are reluctant to give up The Way Things Have Been Done, because they're comfortable with them - back to note 6
  7. These two points really go together - everything done at the desk should be documented, and also be documented in a way that i easily findable (as in, a wiki rather than our never-up-to-date three-ring binder) - back to note 7
  8. This one won't be a problem this year - I go to more meetings than ever, it seems - back to note 8
  9. Staff training might actually be the biggest goal of the year. Updating and changing things is great, but I need to keep my staff current and comfortable with everything, too; which is often the biggest challenge, as our staff is so large - back to note 9
  10. annual review, department goals, goal, goals, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, review

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