Culture and Competencies: A Multi-Country Examination of Reference Service Competencies

Laura Saunders 1 , Serap Kurbanoglu 2 , Mary Wilkins Jordan 3 , Joumana Boustany 4 , Brenda Chawner 5 , Matylda Filas 6 , Ivana Hebrang Grgic 7 , Gaby Haddow 8 , Jos van Helvoort 9 , Professor, Mersini Kakouri 10 , Ane Landøy 11 , Karolina Minch 12 , Gillian Oliver 13 , Panayiota Polydoratou 10 , Angela Repanovici 14 , Egbert J. Sanchez Vanderkast 15 , Tania Todorova 16 , Sirje Virkus 17 , Anna Wolodko 18 ,  and Professor, Daniela Zivkovic 19
  • 1 Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • 2 Professor, Department of Information Management, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
  • 3 Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • 4 Associate Professor, Libraries, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France
  • 5 IST Programmes Director, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 6 Librarian, University Library, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
  • 7 Research/teaching assistant, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
  • 8 Lecturer, Information Studies, School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  • 9 Senior Lecturer, Academy of ICT & Media, The Hague University of Applied Sciences, The Hague, Netherlands
  • 10 Assistant Professor, Department of Library Science & Information Systems, Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Thessalioniki, Greece
  • 11 Academic Librarian, University Library, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • 12 Librarian, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
  • 13 Senior Lecturer, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
  • 14 Professor, Information Science,Transilvania University of Brasov, Brasov, Romania
  • 15 Researcher, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico D.F.
  • 16 Associate Professor, State University of Library Studies and Information Technology, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 17 Lecturer, Institute of Information Studies, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
  • 18 librarian, University Library, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
  • 19 Associate Professor, Department of Library Science, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Abstract

Reference librarians have the opportunity to interact with patrons and colleagues of many different backgrounds, languages, and cultures as a result of our increasingly interconnected and peripatetic world. In order to provide the best possible service to these varied communities, reference librarians should understand some of the culture differences that exist across countries, and in particular, the differences in the way that reference services are conceived and delivered in different countries. This study explores some of these differences in reference services by surveying current practitioners in thirteen countries to find out which competencies they believe are most important for academic reference librarians right now, and in the near future. The results of this study highlight some important commonalities and differences, and could help reference librarians to manage and meet the expectations of their international patrons, and perhaps help them to prepare for an international job experience of their own. Academic reference librarians may be interested to see the extent to which their counterparts in other countries face similar challenges and expectations with regard to delivering reference services. Teaching faculty in library science programs will be interested to understand reference competencies and expectations in other countries, especially as they teach greater numbers of international students or consider collaborating with international colleagues. In addition, an international understanding is important in developing students who can compete in a global job market.

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Libri investigates the functions of libraries and information services from both a historical and present-day perspective and analyses the role of information in cultural, organizational, national and international developments.

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