Asee peer logo

The Hybrid Reference Desk: Changing Strategies for Changing Times

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

ELD Poster Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1463.1 - 22.1463.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Larry A. Thompson Virginia Tech

Download Paper |


The Hybrid Reference Desk: Changing Strategies for Changing TimesGoogle. E-journals. E-books. Blogs. Wikis. Texting. Tweets. With every digital advance,doomsayers foretell the demise of libraries. And, along with the libraries, the passing of thetraditional services they offer. The title of an ACRL presentation states the mindset concisely:“Redesign Your Reference Desk: Get Rid of It!” While this approach may fit the needs of someinstitutions, the University Libraries have adopted a hybrid approach to reference.The physical reference desks provide a service point for traditional in person questions. But, staffmembers at the desk are also tasked with handling chat and text based questions, thusincorporating the new means of communication used by the university community. Chat or textusers are able to select the subject area in which their question falls, and are routed to a staffmember at the appropriate desk. Thus, those with questions in the areas of science, engineering,and medicine are routed to the SciTech desk, while the humanities, social sciences, and businessquestions are routed to staff in those areas.This paper will analyze the library’s reference statistics, with a particular emphasis upon thetrends for various formats of communication. It will also show that, while traditional referenceinteractions may be in decline, information consumers still have questions. Although someinstitutions may choose to get rid of the desk, this paper will demonstrate that in some cases itmay be more effective to answer user questions with a (hybrid) reference desk model.

Thompson, L. A. (2011, June), The Hybrid Reference Desk: Changing Strategies for Changing Times Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18607

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015