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Two events this past August prompted me to think more about reference services than I have for some time. The first was being interviewed by the editor-in-chief of Arugus, a journal published by the Corporation of Professional Librarians of Quebec. I was asked to respond to several questions about the future of reference services for a forthcoming thematic issue on this topic. The second event was a two-day Penn State University Libraries reference retreat, an in-house workshop attended by approximately eighty-five librarians and staff members (with additional virtual attendees). I am using this space as a forum to share what I learned from my innovative colleagues and the incomparable Marie Radford, the keynote speaker and workshop facilitator.
Radford, an associate professor in the Rutgers University School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, is well-known to many RUSQ readers. She is a leading researcher on the topic of interpersonal communication in face-to-face and virtual reference encounters. In addition to being a highly sought-after speaker, she has published widely on virtual reference. Our understanding of the latter will be greatly enriched by her ongoing study of virtual reference services. She is the co-principal investigator of "Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives," a study funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Readers wanting to track Radford and Lynn Silipigni Connaway's (the other principal investigator) progress on this important study may do so by visiting Radford's page. (1)
I was struck by one of the comments made by associate dean Sally Kalin in her message welcoming retreat participants. She notes a resurgence of interest in reference, reflected in part by large and enthusiastic audiences at reference-related programs …