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Using an iPad to redefine roving reference service in an academic library

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to describe how Reference Librarians at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County sought to reach students, faculty and staff at their point of need by setting up a mobile reference unit at high traffic locations on campus rather than inside the library building. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The librarians initiated this project to increase outreach efforts for graduate students but as this service attracted undergraduates equally, they eventually decided to target all students. Using an iPad, a laptop stand, and a large sign to advertise the service, they spent two semesters visiting various locations on campus to collect data on frequency of use and optimal sites. Findings ‐ The authors identified patterns of use regarding the type of questions that were frequently asked and the time of day that most students utilized the service. This knowledge helped establish a need for further efforts to make library services available outside of the library building. The iPad served as a vital tool for answering questions while roving and attracted patrons to the desk as well. Originality/value ‐ The librarians hope to establish a regular roving schedule for future semesters based on the data they collected. This roving reference service continues to grow and is expected to do so even more as the librarians use more aggressive marketing techniques and form additional partnerships with student organizations. This paper offers strategies for creating a roving reference service and is valuable to all librarians who seek to serve library users outside of the library building.
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Keywords: Academic libraries; College library; Library services; Mobile technology; Outreach; Reference services; Roving; United States of America; Universities; iPad

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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