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While academic reference desks are seeing fewer visitors, the information environment is becoming increasingly complex. We know that students (and faculty) continue to have higher-level research needs that they are not bringing to traditional service points. At the same time, academic librarians often find themselves struggling to provide sustainable and meaningful research support. How can we reach a critical mass of students, while also respecting not only our own workloads but also those of faculty increasingly pressed for instructional time? The libraries at College of the Holy Cross are working to meet this challenge with a consultation-based Personal Research Session (PRS) program, formally launched in the fall of 2011. This program has allowed our reference staff to provide individualized, higher-level assistance to our students while reaching them in record numbers, with over 470 appointments held during the 2014-2015 academic year, in addition to our walk-in reference transactions and one-shot instruction. On a broader level, our PRS have also presented opportunities to reimagine and expand our integration into the curriculum, our collaboration with faculty, our internal workflows and communication as a reference staff, and our overall model of reference service.


This presentation was given at Bridging the Spectrum: A Symposium on Scholarship and Practice in Library and Information Science, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., February 12, 2016.



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