Public Services Committee Meeting: November 9, 2022

IN-Person Meeting: Milner Library, Illinois State University, Normal / Zoom

Members attending in person: Steve Brantley (Eastern Illinois University), Chad Kahl, co-chair (Illinois State University), Anne Shelley (Illinois State University), Arlie Sims (Columbia College Chicago), Lesley Wolfgang, co-chair (Saint John's College of Nursing)

Members attending on Zoom: Katie Maier-O’Shea (North Park University), Ashley McMullin (DePaul University), Simone Williams (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)

Member absent: Jennifer Lau-Bond (Harper College)

CARLI Staff attending: Elizabeth Clarage, Denise Green


  • No modifications to the agenda.
  • October 2022 meeting minutes were approved.
  • Hold online discussion event on the future of reference best practices with a focus on blended models and staffing solutions, in March/April 2023.
  • Create survey and send to members ahead of event, in January 2023.

Tasks Assigned

  • Minutes taken by Anne Shelley.
  • Chad will create a draft of survey questions and post in Box.
  • Committee members will review the questions before the December meeting and the survey will be discussed then.


  • Member Announcements:
    • Steve Brantley (Eastern Illinois University): Library Dean search ongoing. Appreciated opportunity to attend recent CARLI Annual Meeting.
    • Ashley McMullin (DePaul University): Finished interviews for metadata librarian position and hoping to extend offer soon. Interviewing next week for AUL for collections and discovery services. High turnover in access services. People are leaving staff roles into librarian roles. Finals week is soon; reviewing traffic stats and they are close to pre-pandemic levels.
    • Arlie Sims (Columbia College Chicago): Hired UX librarian a few weeks ago. Doing more in-person classroom instruction (rather than online) than expected. No vacancies right now.
    • Chad Kahl (Illinois State University): New Outreach and Engagement Librarian started last week. Applied Sciences subject librarian left recently. Two tenure track positions have been posted recently – Metadata Librarian and Digital Archivist. Just hired a Communications Director, starts in December.
    • Lesley Wolfgang (Saint John's College of Nursing): Her library is joining I-Share. Working with a class on a poster project, using OVID synthesis, to better prepare nursing students. Recently hired a new student worker, so now has two student workers.
  • CARLI Announcements:
    • Reminder to check the CARLI calendar on the website. Many events coming up. [Discussion about successful recent presentation on link checking with e-resources.]
    • Instruction Committee recently had an event on quiet quitting, and have an upcoming discussion on articles from recent C&RL issue on one-shot instruction on Friday, December 9th.
    • New libraries joining I-Share: St. John’s College of Nursing, Illinois College of Optometry, Prairie State CC, College of Lake County, City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Theological Seminary. CARLI is pleased to have this high new number of community colleges join.
    • Annual Meeting had 8 sponsors, that funding goes toward scholarships that fund CARLI library staff who want to pursue a library degree.
    • CARLI is working on strategic planning. A survey has gone to members and time was dedicated at the recent Annual Meeting.
    • CARLI is hosting the 4th iteration of CARLI Counts. The previous three rounds were funded by IMLS but this round is funded by CARLI. This program helps librarians develop assessment and research skills. CARLI Counts alumni are eligible to participate. Question about what project an alum might work on, encouraged to work on project based at institution. Question about involvement of Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and unsure. Comment that former colleague who had gone through CARLI Counts and how it helped job applications. Question about I School’s Business Intelligence Group and any relationship or collaboration with CARLI Counts, answer is that a class is currently involved but that ends in December so perhaps not after that.
    • CARLI Board has been discussing changes to by-laws. Proposed name change of Board to CARLI Governance Board, to clarify lack of fiscal responsibility of Board members. Also considering eliminating affiliate membership category. There are only two and they make negotiations unnecessarily complicated with vendors. Clearer definition of member benefits to codify current practice. Governing members will need to vote on these changes and those ballots are being distributed this week.
    • Annual Meeting also had an update on the Alma title reduction project, Ex Libris approached CARLI because the bib record count was greater than the number dictated in the contract. UI paid for staff to de-duplicate records to comply with the contract. Question about how this will affect unique records for what appear to be the same source from different institutions, answer is no, as this project looked at Alma records, not Primo VE. Comment that their institution does not use Primo VE because of incompatibilities with EBSCO and wondering how many other institutions do that. Comment that most libraries are using the discovery layer, some feedback from committee members about their library’s practice. Institutions that have primarily EBSCO resources have kept EDS. Discussion about pros and cons of keeping EDS vs relying Primo. Comment that most issues are with OpenAthens and smaller vendors. Discussion about situations when librarians direct users to particular resources vs the discovery layer. Comment that more OA resources are available in Primo.
    • Announcement of OER sub-grants and a list of the resources that will be created, hoping to have these published in Spring 2023 and be available for adoption in fall 2023.
    • The Collection Management Committee is focusing on archives, having a conversation on November 17 to learn more about what interests members have, particularly institutions who don’t have an archivist, what they need and want.


  • Discuss 2022-2023 Projects
    • Future of reference and instruction and how libraries are adapting for medium- / long-term
    • Blended services and staff models
  • Comment that the two topics are inseparable, post-COVID, some agreement. Anecdotes about how service points have somewhat combined, having instruction in there might be the distinction.
  • The committee has discussed this topic in the past.
  • Comment that a library has resisted collocating service points. Pilot to move a desk from a visible location to a place more populated by students, current dean (not a library background) has reversed the pilot. Right now there is an empty desk and that seems to be the biggest issue. Resistance from circulation staff to address basic reference questions. Not enough librarians to staff the empty desk all the time, concern about value of having librarians on the desk.
  • Comment from another member that they blended the desks. Reference librarians were behind access services desk, right before COVID happened. Librarians are doing other kinds of work – increasing instruction, sending back a video as an answer to a reference question. Our work is different, we are training student workers to know the difference between basic reference questions and those that need to be referred to a librarian. Observation that access service desk and reference have differences on what matters for students to know. We are working with a greater variety of media, fewer staff, less time.
  • Question about who is the labor behind access services. Usually non-librarian staff and/or students.
  • Issues identified
    • There are fewer reference librarians.
    • Librarians are working with a wider variety of media.
    • Philosophies of training students differ. (Yes/no questions vs. reference interview)
    • Student turnover is high, and because minimum wage is higher there aren’t as many students employed.
    • Access services is understaffed, and they do a lot: reserves, ILL, tech checkout.
    • Resistance to rethinking how things are done, letting things go
    • Lack of framework for training students to do reference triage (whereas this seems more straightforward for access services)
    • Faculty don’t tend to supervise students and concern about adding that responsibility
  • Comment that institutions are interested in training programs for students and newly hired staff who have not worked in libraries.
  • Comment that a reference desk gives students an opportunity to see a face, they might be hesitant to make an appointment for a consultation with someone they haven’t met. Desk provides touchstone interaction opportunities.
  • Comment that students prefer in-person meetings to virtual when given the option.
  • Comment about campus environment – high commuter population vs. residential – and student behaviors – working late at night. Students don’t always work best online.
  • Comment that a lot of what we talk to students about requires interaction, rather than just watching a video. Comment about decline in reference statistics and justifying decisions and practices to university administration. Comments about changes that have been forced against professional identity and philosophies.
  • Comment about online guide created to train access services students in reference work. Part of training was to set up a consultation with librarian, in process. This was an attempt to bring the departments together as a team.
  • Desire to learn more about better developing teamwork. Maybe a single service point would help? Want to hear about this from other libraries. Have encouraged access services staff to join committees and working groups. Pay and equity issue – even if hourly staff is degreed they would not get paid extra to do more (instruction).
  • Comment about cross training attempt that didn’t go well. Got feedback from colleague that it was too much information and expectation. Finding a balance will be important. Question about misconception about what a reference transaction entails.
  • Comment that having worked in several academic libraries, there has always been a tension between professional librarians and hourly colleagues including pay equity, unreasonable expectations.
  • Comment that working solo is challenging but might be helpful for this kind of training because you do everything.
  • Comment about challenges when librarians volunteered to spend time at circulation to address staffing shortages, some resistance to that.
  • Comment that COVID has changed how employers need to acknowledge emotions and take people more into consideration, involve them in conversation.
  • Comment that personality plays into this – if people enjoy interactions outside the office. Some subject librarians are comfortable sitting on a desk and waiting for people to come to them, others would rather be doing outreach on campus.
  • Suggestions
    • We could combine the two topics.
    • Comment that this could be a bunch of smaller projects, doesn’t have to be one big project.
    • Drop instruction and refer that to the instruction committee.
    • Denise will loop in the Resource Sharing Committee.
  • Themes
    • Student training
    • Improving collaboration and communication in the context of public services
    • Impact of COVID. How to move forward instead of just react?
    • Staffing – levels will not go back to pre-COVID, hybrid work expectations, recruitment and retention has been challenging
    • Focus on the whole person, work-life balance, wellness
  • Possible outcome
    • Online meeting
    • Ask attendees for COVID silver linings and challenges (staffing)
    • How to best prepare people who might want to attend or attract people to a session
    • Reference to past CDL session
    • Send out a survey ahead of time and show preliminary data to attendees
  • Suggestion to not reference COVID, general agreement
  • Discussion about timing
    • Survey in January, panel in March, publish any notes in April
    • Suggestion to finish survey before winter break
  • Survey
    • What future of reference do you want and think is possible compared to a few years ago?
    • What have you recently chosen to let go of in public services? Were these positive or negative changes?
    • Size of library staff ten years ago compared to now?
    • What are you afraid of?
    • What changes have you made or do you hope to make in order to make your services more inclusive and accessible?
    • Do you plan to change or have you recently changed your staffing models for providing reference and/or blended services? If so, please explain.
  • Develop best practices for reference services now
  • Examples: making a quick research guide and video for individual student; online practicums with I School students
  • Discussion about scope
    • Focus on reference? Or more open? Decision on “reference and blended” – blended should encompass anyone who provides reference-type services, particularly in smaller libraries
  • Discussion of panel
    • Make sure there is access services representation
    • Feature a library where this is working well
    • Bring in someone who specializes in organizational psychology
  • Goals
    • Improving services
    • Working together, reducing workplace tension and acknowledging value in what colleagues do, acknowledging power and inequity

Next Meeting Dates and Deadlines

The Public Services Committee will next meet on December 14, 2022 at 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Remaining Committee Meetings:
December 14, 2022, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Jennifer Lau-Bond
January 11, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Ashley McMullin
February 8, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Katie Maier-O'Shea
March 8, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Arlie Sims
April 12, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Simone Williams
May 10, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: Chad Kahl
June 14, 2023, 10-11 a.m., Minutes: to be determined

Deadlines: None