chapter
35 Pages

Digital Reference in Slavic and East European Studies with an Examination of Practice at the University of Illinois and the Library of Congress

The introduction of digital technologies and the Internet has caused a revolution in the way libraries operate. Reference librarians have experienced this revolution just as much as catalogers, acquisitions staff, and librarians with other areas of responsibility. Libraries have invested an enormous amount of money in digital products and services, and to ensure that this money is not wasted, reference librarians have had to modify old, more traditional reference strategies to help users take advantage of these new tools. Besides learning new techniques, reference librarians are also getting involved in creating systems and content that enhance the user’s research experience. The same is true for providers of more specialized reference services such as Slavic and East European (Slavic, for short) reference librarians in the United States. This essay is an overview of the trends in digital reference with particular emphasis on the Slavic field, highlighted by specific examples from my personal experiences as a Slavic reference librarian at two major U.S. research libraries, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Slavic Reference Service in the Slavic and East European Library) and the Library of Congress (European Division). I will survey the impact the digital revolution has had on the provision of specialized reference services and explore the areas in which Slavic librarians have risen to meet the new challenges or, conversely, need to expand their participation, always keeping in mind a reference librarian’s mantra, “whether our collections are large or small, whether our technologies are complex or simple, whether our patrons are worldwide or local, librarians care about use.”1