IMPACT OF ICT ON REFERENCE SERVICES (PT. I)
A library plays different roles for different people. To some, it is a place to read books for relaxation and newspapers to keep up to date; to others it is a place to do research; to others still; it is a place for seeking information in response to a particular need. Today, the informational role of the library is emphasized. Libraries and librarians play an important role in providing access to information, organizing it, and helping users find the information they need. One key element of libraries has been the reference service, where librarians help users to find an information source or the information itself to meet their individual needs.
Reference services arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to several trends, including:
- An increase in the number and variety of information resources available in libraries and outside
- An increase in the complexity of those information resources; these increases combining to make it more difficult for people to find the resource they were looking for, and to find the information they needed within that resource, and
- An increase in the number and diversity of people using libraries (particularly public libraries), leading to a wider range of information needs, enquiries, and sophistication in the search for information (Janes, 2002).
Reference services have always been a key element in libraries. They provide personalized guidance to library users in accessing appropriate information resources to meet their needs. With the amount and complexity of information increasing, the need to differentiate useful information from misinformation, and the rising needs and expectations of users, reference services are even more important today than before. Fortunately, information and communication technology (ICT) offers opportunities to provide and enhance these services.
With the amount and diversity of information available on the Internet and in databases constantly increasing, the lack of organization on the web, the demands of users who want quick, clear answers in response to an information need, and (sometimes) the lack of skills among users to find information, there is an even greater need for reference services today. Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and in particular the Internet and online services, provide opportunities for enhanced reference services. Many libraries are now offering, or considering offering, reference services via the Internet to their users.