Reference Policy

Adopted by the Board of Trustees June 24, 1991
Revised September 25, 1997

Reference Policy

Reference services include the provision of requested information from sources within and outside the Library's collections, reader's advisory service, and referral to libraries and agencies outside the system when necessary. The Library's collection and resources are drawn upon to fill requests for information. Reference service is provided in all Sno-Isle Libraries at no charge. Assistance is provided to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

In each reference transaction, Library staff initiate and maintain a dialogue with individuals requesting service. The exchange of information related to each request enables staff to better serve the public by ensuring that staff completely understand the nature of the information requested and the individual understands the processes used to supply the information.

Reference service is provided in a timely manner. Whenever an individual requesting information provides a deadline, Library staff make every attempt to meet it or explain to the individual why the deadline cannot be met. To enable the quick and efficient transfer of information, Sno-Isle Libraries has identified four geographic regions within the system, and has established a reference center in each. Regional reference centers are located in Edmonds,Lynnwood, Marysville, Oak Harbor, and Snohomish Libraries. Reference center staff are trained to provide reference service to members of their communities and smaller libraries within their regions. In addition, the Lynnwood Library serves as the system's reference center, providing service to library users within that community and to libraries and individuals throughout the system.

All Sno-Isle Libraries house a core collection of reference materials that enable staff and the public to find information of a general nature about the world and more specific information about the state, county, and community. Regional reference center collections are developed to meet the information needs of the region served; staff and the public should be able to fill most information requests from these collections. The system's reference center collection at Lynnwood is developed to enable staff and the public to perform sophisticated research and provide in-depth information from resources not affordable for small libraries.

Basic Service Guidelines

1.1 Confidentiality

Sno-Isle Regional Library staff guarantee the individual's right to confidentiality in all reference transactions. Information obtained to fill a reference request is delivered directly to the individual who placed the request; exceptions to this practice are made only with prior instruction from the requester.

1.2 Timeliness

Information requests are filled as soon as possible from the date and time received. Whenever an individual provides staff with a deadline for filling a request, every attempt is made to meet the deadline. In the event that an individual's deadline cannot be met, staff contact the individual and explain the situation or negotiate a new deadline. Requests that cannot be filled at a community library are referred to the appropriate regional reference center within two working days. Regional reference center staff attempt to fill information requests within three working days; unfilled requests are referred to the system reference center after that time period. Whenever reference requests have not been filled after five working days, the requester is contacted by staff to keep the individual apprised of the status of the request.

1.3 Service Priorities

Individuals are served on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to individuals who make requests in person. When requests require extended searches or workload must be prioritized, requesters' deadlines are used as the deciding factor.

1.4 Reference Interview

Staff communicate with the public to verify or clarify requests for information in a process of interviewing. Reference interviews also serve to explain the process used to fill requests for information. When information is provided, staff seek verification of satisfaction on the part of the library user rather than assuming the transaction is complete.

1.5 Documentation Of Information

All information provided by Sno-Isle staff is documented. Sources are cited when staff provide information verbally and a bibliographic citation is included on every copy provided by staff in filling a reference request. Staff provide information but do not summarize or interpret it.


2.1 Requests For Information

The Sno-Isle Regional Library has developed a referral network for filling information requests. At each step in the referral process, requests that cannot be filled due to volume of business, limited print resources or staff expertise with searching are passed on to a larger library. When a local library cannot answer a request, staff refer the questions to their regional reference center. Regional reference center staff refer unanswered questions and requests to the system's reference center at the Lynnwood Library. In the event that an information request cannot be filled by the resources of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System, the system's reference center staff may refer the information request to the Reference Department at the Washington State Library. When it is necessary or appropriate to refer an individual directly to another library or agency outside the Sno-Isle Regional Library System, library staff facilitate the referral for the individual by providing information such as hours of operation, requirements for service, or verifying the availability of the information or resources needed by the individual.

2.2 Requests For Material

The public may reserve library materials that are in circulation or housed in another Sno-Isle Library. Requests may be made in person, by telephone, or on-line. Individuals making a large number of requests will not be limited; however, staff may have to limit the number of requests to be processed at any one time due to volume of business and time pressures.

When staff determine that material requested is not available in the system's collection, the requester is notified. The fastest method for connecting the requester with material is to provide an alternate title containing the same or similar information. If the requester wants a specific title, the request is forwarded to Collection Develop-ment for purchase or interlibrary loan consideration. The option to borrow material through interlibrary loan is offered only for print material.

2.3 Resource Sharing

Sno-Isle Regional Library attempts to make collections, resources, and services available to library users at every service outlet. Reference materials may be sent from one library to another for in-house use by an individual. The decision on whether to send a reference title to another library is made by staff in the originating library and is based on frequency of demand for the title. If the requested title cannot be sent, photocopies are made for the individual free of charge.

2.4 Library Orientation

Sno-Isle staff attempt to make library users familiar with library services, collections, and general organization. Library tours are provided on request to individuals or groups.

2.5 Photocopy Services

Photocopy machines are available at all Sno-Isle Libraries; fees for the service vary among library buildings. Copies sent by one library to another are provided at no charge to the individual.

2.6 Information Delivery

It is a goal of the Sno-Isle Regional Library System's reference referral network to have reference requests filled by the local library whenever possible. If the individual's deadline permits, answers to information requests will be sent to the local library for delivery to the patron. If the individual's deadline does not permit this type of delivery, responses to requests may be transmitted directly to the individual.

When I got my library card, that's when my life began.
- Rita Mae Brown

Sno-Isle Libraries Administrative & Service Center
7312 35th Ave NE, Marysville, WA 98271-7417
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