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Reference Services Policy

Reference Services Policy

The Aurora Public Library is dedicated to supporting lifelong learning and access to information, knowledge and ideas. The Reference Department strives to effectively meet the goals of the Library’s mission statement by providing quality informational resources and services for our users.

Purpose and General Provisions of Reference Service

The goal of the reference staff at Aurora Public Library is to provide accurate information and materials in an efficient, courteous, and timely manner. To ensure that quality service is provided, only staff trained in providing reference service will work at the reference desk. The staff will provide the best service possible through the available resources and through collaboration with fellow staff members who have specialized knowledge and skills. To achieve this goal, the Library will maintain a collection of general reference resources that will be available for use by the Library patrons and reference staff. Aurora Public Library cardholders may also request additional materials through the interlibrary loan process. Any Library patron who requests information or materials will be assisted by staff within the limits imposed by: (1) available resources, and (2) policies, practices, and guidelines established by the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors.

Access and Service Limitations

Reference service is provided in the Young People’s Department and the Adult Services Department at the Main Library and at the Branches. Questions requiring more in depth research may be referred to the Main Library.  Due to a lack of time and space only limited information service can be provided on the Bookmobile and at the Express Center(s).  Print materials on a specific topic can be sent to any Aurora Public Library location, including the bookmobile, to answer a patron’s request. The Library subscribes to a variety of electronic resources to assist in answering reference queries. These resources are available at all Library locations, except the Bookmobile.

Access and Service to Non-Residents

Non-residents will be assisted with local library resources. If the request proves to be beyond the scope of the resources available at the Library, or if the information requested necessitates extensive research by staff, non-resident patrons could be referred to their home libraries or other agencies for service. Remote access to many of the electronic resources to which the Library subscribes requires password authentication and use is limited to Aurora Public Library cardholders. These databases may be accessed at the Library on Library computers without password authentication.

Reference Collection Development

The emphasis of the reference collection has shifted from print to electronic resources. Databases and other electronic resources cover a broader range of information and have the advantage of more timely updates. The Reference staff will read professional reviews of reference materials and make recommendations for purchase. Criteria may include one or more of the following: literary merit; enduring value; accuracy; authoritativeness; social significance; importance of subject matter to the collection; timeliness; popular demand; costs; scarcity of material on the subject and availability elsewhere and quality and suitability of the format. The Reference Services Librarian makes the final decision on which materials are suitable for the reference collection.

Electronic resources (including but not limited to databases or ebooks) will be selected to cover areas of patron interest including, but not restricted to, literature, foreign language, genealogy, biography, and periodicals.

Forms of Inquiry

Inquiries are accepted in person, by telephone, by electronic means and through the mail. Priority is given to in-person requests. Staff will, however, complete a telephone conversation in process before attending to in-person requests.

Responses to Requests for Assistance

Standards and Practices Reference service is provided by trained staff during all hours the Library is open. When working at a service desk, response to patron service needs, including reference inquiries, takes precedence over other staff duties.

Requests will generally be handled in the order in which they are received. Requests submitted by patrons in the Library are given priority over telephone requests that are received at the same time. Reference staff members will attempt to answer questions at the time the request is made and to work within the patron’s time requirements. If necessary, staff will inform the patron that a longer response time is needed or that assistance should be sought from another library or agency.

Staff will offer their best professional opinion when providing reader’s advisory service or recommending the best source to answer a question. Staff will not give opinions, advice, or interpretation of information beyond the scope of their expertise and training in library reference work. When answering a patron’s reference question, reference staff will cite the resource(s) from which the information is obtained. The producers of that resource, not the Library itself, are responsible for that resource’s accuracy. The librarian will decide when all reasonable resource options have been exhausted at the Library and when it is time to cease working on a question and refer the patron elsewhere.

If it proves to be both possible and practical to do so, staff will attempt to guide and instruct patrons in the use of library resources when responding to reference inquiries.

Staff will assist as they are able in helping patrons with computer applications or electronic reading/listening devices and may refer patrons to appropriate books, online tutorials, or classes for further assistance. When assisting patrons with computer resources, staff will not enter personal information for patrons.

Staff will not provide the following kinds of assistance, which are deemed to be beyond the scope of the Library’s service responsibilities:

Specific Reference Question Guidelines  

The library stocks basic Illinois and Federal tax forms. If patrons request a form that we do not have, we will print the appropriate form and instructions from the Internal Revenue Service and Illinois Department of Revenue web site. If more information is required, the patron will be given contact information for the state/federal Internal Revenue Services. (See also Fees)

Loan of Reference Materials

Some reference materials may be checked out at the discretion of the senior reference staff member on duty. Materials may be checked out for up to one week to anyone with an Aurora Public Library Card in good standing.  At the discretion of the senior reference staff member on duty, up to 5 reference items can be checked out at the same time, to the same patron.

The following reference items will not circulate:


The Aurora Public Library does not charge for reference service.  Fees may be charged for photocopies or postage. The Library will print travel directions (i.e. MapQuest) at no charge. The Library will print up to two (2) copies of tax forms that we do not have. A fee will be charged for printing additional forms or tax form instructions. Fees may be charged for genealogical/local history searches. Additional fees may be requested for in-depth genealogical/local history research. The Aurora Public Library cannot guarantee complete success for any genealogy/local history search that is initiated regardless of any fees that have been paid.

One on One Library Assistance

Reference staff may be available to work one-on-one with patrons to assist in their information needs. Staff instructional sessions include, but are not limited to, using Library’s research databases, genealogical searching and training on specific electronic devices. One-on-one sessions are generally scheduled for 30 minutes. The Main Library will accept appointments and may have drop-in times posted. At all other times and locations this service will be provided by appointment only, as time permits for the reference staff.

Ethical Considerations

Reference service shall be provided to all users on an equal, nondiscriminatory, and nonjudgmental basis without regard to: (1) race, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, background, appearance, or personal view of the patron making the inquiry; (2) the subject matter being researched; or (3) the purpose of the inquiry. Transactions with patrons will be treated as equally important. All questions and requests for information shall be treated as confidential in the sense that, except as may be required by law, the nature of the question asked and the identity of the patron shall not be discussed with other patrons, and shall not be divulged beyond that necessary for the orderly and effective administration of the Library and the Reference Service. Reference staff may consult with each other when necessary to serve the patron or consult with staff at other libraries, agencies, and organizations.

The Library adopts and adheres to the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics. (Appended)   American Library Association Code of Ethics

Approved by the Aurora Public Library Board of Directors 4/10/2013

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