Roving Reference provides increased research support

Ruth Mirtz (right), education reference librarian and assistant professor, helps a student locate research materials as part of the Roving Reference program.

Roving Reference, a new program in UM Libraries, allows easy access to reference librarians who help students, faculty and staff identify and locate resources.

As part of Roving Reference, five librarians take turns roaming the library’s stacks during its busiest hours, sharing an iPad to help support patrons in their research. To raise the visibility of the service, the librarians also run two stations in high-traffic study areas for short-term reference needs, said Ruth Mirtz, education reference librarian and assistant professor.

While services are available at the reference desk on the first floor, Mirtz said many students have questions as they are searching for materials on the second and third floors.

“The questions reveal that Roving Reference offers the ability to complete the ‘second half’ of reference transactions by continuing to support students as they move to unknown or complex parts of their research,” Mirtz said. “Roving Reference provides integrated, scaffolded reference and research support, rather than a simple expansion of service.”

Roving Reference launched in fall 2012 to help accommodate growth in UM’s enrollment and the increased number of students and researchers using the library, due in part to the opening of the Starbucks on the second floor.

“We knew there were more people here, and we were getting more questions,” said Mirtz. “Through Roving Reference, we’ve helped a lot of people who wouldn’t normally find their way to the reference desk or who didn’t have the question until they got up to the third floor.”