This study addresses a gap in the literature regarding reference services at liberal arts institutions. The author conducted a literature review to examine the existing body of research on reference services and distributed a survey to the 80 member libraries of the Oberlin Group in February 2015. The study found that a wide range of reference practices are in place at liberal arts libraries and focused especially on the use of a designated reference desk, which is widespread. However, there is a correlation between higher librarian satisfaction with reference services and the absence of a desk. Comments from respondents are included in the discussion and reflected common themes associated with decisions around reference services. Some limitations of the study include its small sample size and conflicting responses from librarians at the same institution. Nevertheless, this article provides a starting point for further research into liberal arts reference. It could provide other libraries with a tool for reevaluating their own reference models, and the factors relating to librarian satisfaction, the themes running through the comments, or the trends discussed in the literature review may be relevant for determining the most effective reference model at any institution.
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Oxford, E. (2016). Reference service in liberal arts libraries. Journal of New Librarianship, 1(1), 3-27. doi:10.21173/newlibs/2016/1/oxford.1