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15 Sep 2020

Virtual Reference Service, A Necessity of Internet Era

Jakarta - The development of ICT technology encourages changes in the character of reference service in libraries. Reference service is currently not only limited to service that provide a collection of reference such as kaleidoscopes, directories, dictionaries, geographic sources, bibliographic sources and so on. In the age of the internet, such reference collections can be accessed easily without any difficult efforts via the internet.

Because of that, the reference then develops into a library service that provides a service desk, both physically and virtually, where users can ask the librarian for assistance in fulfilling their information needs.

This was conveyed by Arief Wicaksono, Librarian who is also the reference service group’s head of the National Library of the Republic of Indonesia on the 2nd day of the webinar "25 years of Library Visit Day and Month of Reading Fondness Towards Superior Human Resources and Advanced Indonesia" activity which was held virtually on Tuesday (9/15/2020).

Arief explained that the role of reference service is to provide precise information according to the needs of users in the midst of the large amount of available information. "The reference service is a map and a compass to show the right information that users can use in the vast ocean of information today," said Arief.

Furthermore, he added that "reference desk" for current library service can be in the form of physical table available in library facilities, or virtually that can be accessed by users’ via media such as email, chat, social media, or SMS. "The form of virtual reference service is a necessity in today's internet era, and is the most effective and efficient media to be used today, especially during a pandemic," said Arief.

The National Library itself also has a virtual reference service through the "Ask Librarian" service which can be accessed via livechat through the web page www.perpusnas.go.id or via email service_reference@perpusnas.go.id. According to Arief, the National Library virtual reference channel received a good response from users with many questions that came in. In addition to the convenience of asking questions without moving, this virtual reference service has a special character, namely conversation that occur without face to face, which makes users more comfortable because they will not feel ashamed of their ignorance.

Apart from the availability of facilities and technology to provide reference service, the competence of reference librarians is also a matter of concern. The ability to define user information needs, evaluate information, perform information analythical-synthesis, and disseminate information are technical skills required by reference librarians.

Reference librarians also need to have an attitude that is easily approachable by users, focus, listen carefully to the needs of the users, actively invite users to participate in searches, and follow up on the answers given. "In principle, the reference librarians must always educate the users so that in finding the next information needs they can do it themselves without the help of the librarian," concluded Arief.

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