Electronic Reference Services

Topics: Digital reference services, Archival science, Library and information science Pages: 7 (2626 words) Published: May 10, 2013
According to Cook, T (1990), the role of archival science in a postmodernist world challenges archivists everywhere to rethink their discipline and practice.The digital age has brought about noteworthy changes in the archival line of work. The digital age brought about the electronic record which in itself introduced new thoughts and concepts of the whole profession. An upbeat account of the United States Centre for Electronic Records Archive focuses on access and validation strategies. A wider perspective is taken from an Australian viewpoint showing how record keeping is increasingly electronic, but emphasizes the essence of traditional records management and informational skills. The electronic record reference has become known to be digital reference (or virtual reference), a service by which the archives or a records repository reference service is conducted online, and the reference transaction is a computer based communication. It is the delivery of reference services provided by the archives to users who cannot access or do not want face-to-face communication. This form of reference work expands reference services from the physical reference desk to a "virtual" reference desk where the patron could be writing from home, work or a variety of other locations. Due to the electronic record the centrality of the reference room being the interface between the user and the records is now a notion of the past. Electronic mail, instant messaging, chat and video conferencing are all part of the tools empowering archivists to move toward what has been termed “digital reference service.” In this new world of extended reference, archivists, materials, and clients are not all in the same place at the same time. White (2001) defines digital reference service as an information access service in which people ask questions via electronic means. In turn, knowledgeable individuals answer questions , and responses are transmitted via electronic means. Digital networked reference is still a relatively new idea in the archival world, conversely archivists have been practicing various forms of remote reference for years. Researchers used to pose reference questions to archivists via postal letters that explained their project, information needs, and research schedule. However, the timing of reference services also has changed. Ruller observes that research users can now use archival services on the Internet anytime they delight. Reference services are no longer temporarily contained to business hours. This element of digital reference has pushed the archivist to plan ahead and to prepare services for researchers at any hour without the assistance of archival reference personnel,this often is accomplished in the form of dynamic archival web pages. The personalization of the reference service is changing from what used to be a broad service into a directed service. Electronic reference provides new ways in which researchers can reach the archivist and archival information. Researchers can now correspond with archivists via electronic mail without having to wait for letters to arrive or for a particular individual to be available to answer a question by phone. Archivists have since changed their roles in order to fit their profession in this new prototype. According to Dearstyne (2012; 185), the increasing creation and use of the electronic record occasions needs more attention to archivist’s relationship with researchers. There are several areas in which researchers and archivists can and should work together to address common needs. The best way in which both the archivist and the researcher meet is through reference services. Tibbo, 1995 in his article cites that the reference room as a central location is crumbling quickly. In the past it could be assumed that the archivist, the user, and the sources would physically come together. Currently the concept and contexts of reference services have expanded, breaking their...
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