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Reference Service Policy

Reference Service Defined

Good reference service involves identifying a person’s information needs and proceeding to fulfill it accurately, efficiently and pleasantly, using the resources available in the Library, and including referral to resources in other libraries or agencies when necessary. It also includes providing instruction in library use.

Statement of Objectives

Reference service involves directly providing information or providing instruction in the use of sources to each person to the degree that he or she individually requires.

Patrons will have opportunities to receive instruction in the use of sources and facilities but will not be denied information on the basis of whether or not they learn or accept instruction. However, the Library will encourage patrons who will need to use reference tools repeatedly, to learn the use of these tools.

The following services will be offered to patrons (listed in order of priority)

  1. Personal service to library users who come to the library. Patrons are served on a first come, first served basis.
  2. Telephone inquiries
  3. Library orientation and research resources instruction
  4. E-mail reference service
  5. Mail reference


  1. The Indiana State Library is a research library with specialized collections. Reference service available is based on these specialized collections and the library collection development policy.
  2. All information requests are to be addressed. If information is available, it is provided to patrons without making a judgment on its moral or aesthetic worth.
  3. The needs of every library patron will always be taken seriously and treated with utmost respect and confidentiality. Discussion of any individual’s inquiry, outside the professional context, is strictly prohibited.
  4. While on reference service desk duty, service to the public takes precedence over any other duties.
  5. It is not sufficient for the staff to wait for a patron to request assistance. Since some patrons are reluctant to request assistance, it is the responsibility of staff to anticipate public needs and offer service when it appears needed.
  6. Information given is always based on accurate sources or learned from a reliable authority. The opinion, evaluation or interpretation of staff, even when requested, is not given as fact. Answers to reference questions will only be given after the answer has been verified and a source cited, even for the most common knowledge.
  7. Neither the patron’s nor the staff member’s personal opinions and beliefs should influence the quality of service given.
  8. Staff shall not offer their personal opinions on social issues, politics, religion, etc. to patrons.
  9. Time limits for lengthy reference inquiries may be beyond the Library’s resources to perform in most instances. The amount of staff’s time available will be based on number of staff available and volume of reference services being requested.

Adopted by the Indiana Library and Historical Board