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20 Pages

The Whole Shebang-Comprehensive Evaluation of Reference Operations

It is possible to find man somewhere in the contemporary world in every stage of human development, from the most bestial to the most forlornly technologized. In like manner, since 1935 we seem to have encountered in our library careers the whole span of reference history, from no reference service at all (as late as the 1950s) up to Star Wars' prediction of the robotic future in R/2 D/2, obviously, by his designation, a one-man double Reference Department. In between have been some strange encounters of another kind. In the 1960s we saw Reference Desks located so far from the library's entrance (and not visible from there) they were almost out of the building, and the fortress Reference Desk surrounded by a wooden moat forfending treasure from the dwarves, and catalogs split into four alphabets in two different classifications, and other horrors designed by central libraries of large population universities to keep users away from reference. By the 1980s we had generated large numbers of "burnt out" reference librarians who collapse physically after two hours at the Reference Desk, who deprecate reference service in favor of reading book reviews or attending (pardon the expression) committee meetings, and who are rather feeble at using the card catalog and even feebler at the reference computer console. When branch subject libraries are often run by low level unprofes-

sionals with minimal training, who serve faculty with little bibliographical skills we wonder what era of reference history we are really in now.