Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Librarian Liaison’s CHOICE...

I stepped into my first Reference shift this week with a refresher course on CHOICE: REVIEWS ONLINE.  I refer to this as a refresher course because we were assigned to use this online reference resource in our LIS 501 Introduction to Reference course.  It has been a year-and-a-half since that assignment, so it was time to refresh my memory on how to use this extremely helpful tool.  The good thing about my first Reference shift is that a skilled user (the Reference Librarian on duty) showed me the ropes in how to use the program.  She showed me the program and explained it in the context of being a liaison to various academic departments on campus.

The library where I am doing my practicum divides up the academic departments between all the librarians who act as liaisons for all the university departments.  The liaisons use CHOICE to find books to recommend for the departments.  The Department Heads respond to the recommendations by acknowledging which books they want the library to purchase.  The library orders the chosen books and the money for the purchases comes out of the book budget amount allocated for each department.  All of this is done by February 1st of the current fiscal year.  If there is any money left in a department’s budget after the beginning of February, the money goes into a “general pot” that is used up by a first come first served system.  Any librarian can make recommendations for using the left over money.

To use CHOICE, visit and look at the options on the left-hand side of the screen.  There is the "Recent Issues" option that is divided into months and there is the Outstanding Academic Titles that lists the most highly recommended resources for a given year.  To find books within a specific department, click on one of the four months under "Recent Issues."  In the middle of the screen there is the "Browse Reviews" section that is divided into Reference - General, Humanities, Social & Technology, or Social and Behavioral Sciences.  If Reference material is not desired, simply click on one of the other options - Humanities, Social & Technology, Social and Behavioral Sciences, or Interdisciplinary Categories - and pick from the many disciplines from one of these main categories.  After you click on a subcategory, select a few items or click on "select all titles on this page" and click on the print option if desired.  At the top of the page there will be a box to select "Bib Citation" or "Full Text."  Clicking on "Full Text" provides the entire review for each item selected.

A few final thoughts about being a helps to know what the departments are teaching in order to better know what books to recommend.  One option is to see if any of the professors' syllabi are available on their web pages.  After you skim over a syllabus, it might be a little easier to know what is being taught in that specific class.  Another way to know what the department is teaching is to meet with the various faculty within that department.  It is ideal, though not always possible because of time constraints, to annually visit each professor within the department(s) for which the liaison is responsible.  According to the librarian who taught me about being a liaison, "The more you know about what they are teaching, the better a liaison you will be."  The final benefit to working closely with departments on campus is that it's a good place to get information for LibGuides (resource guides).  The various faculty members might be able to recommend helpful websites that provide necessary information.  This will not only save time in the long run, but will make the resource guide stronger.

So far the Reference experience has been a good one!  Until next time...

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