ABSTRACT

In most academic library reference situations nowadays, librarians are increasingly providing both reference and instructional support to patrons. This increasing rate of ‘instructive reference,’ particularly in electronic library settings, points to a convergence of the reference and instructional roles of librarians in facilitating patrons’ access to electronic information. Reference situations in hi-tech libraries often require the librarian to teach patrons how to use a myriad of technology tools and resources that enable access to electronic/Web-based information. It is becoming more and more difficult to divorce the information being sought by library patrons from the media and technology that facilitates its storage, access, and transmission. Therefore, information literacy in an electronic environment also implies a level of technology literacy or competence that permits the information seeker to utilize various technology tools and resources in their quest for information. The convergence of instruction and reference roles of librarians in academic library environments is further perpetuated by the fact that in many academic libraries, including Penn State, the librarians who provide formal information literacy instruction are the same librarians who also provide reference support to patrons. Therefore, it is easy for the librarians to cross over from reference to instruction when assisting patrons during the reference process. Depending on the nature of the reference question at hand, it is often necessary for reference librarians to provide one-on-one instruction to the patron as part of the response to their question. Typically, such instruction tends to be provided when answering reference questions of an instructional nature that include ‘how to’ components, such as, how to search a particular database, how to configure a Boolean search, how to request interlibrary loan items

online, etc. Moreover, librarians working in electronic environments are seizing more opportunities to create ‘teachable moments’ when answering questions that are not necessarily classified as being of an instructional nature, in order to assist library patrons working in these environments to become more effective independent researchers.