University Libraries.

Reference Services & Policies

Contact Information

Reference Desk Phone: (518) 442-3691

Ask A Librarian Reference Service - e-mail questions answered by librarians

IM Reference Service - chat live with a University at Albany Librarian

Subject Librarians

Elaine M. Lasda Bergman
Professional Bio
Subject Librarian for Reference, Social Welfare, and Gerontology
(518) 442-3695;
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 4-7pm

Carol Anne Germain
Subject Librarian for Information Studies and Informatics
(518) 442-3590;
Office Hours: Held in Draper 141A Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9pm

Catherine Dwyer
Professional Bio
Subject Librarian for Criminal Justice, Political Science, Public Administration & Policy, Law, and Government Information
(518) 442-3698;
Office Hours: Mondays, 4-7pm

Services Provided

  • Answers to specific questions, usually of a ready reference type (e.g., directory information, definitions, biographical information, etc.)
  • Instruction in the use of library resources, including the Internet, databases, and print reference materials.
  • Verification of bibliographic citations.
  • Research assistance, often involving multiple sources and multiple formats of materials.
  • Circulation of Reference materials. The Reference Librarian on duty may make exceptions to this policy for short-term borrowing of reference materials when a library user states a particular need. The decision is at the on-duty librarian's discretion.
  • In-depth assistance for research can also be obtained by scheduling an appointment with a subject librarian or by visiting during weekly drop in office hours.


Mission Statement

The primary goal of reference service is to provide excellent services to assist users with their educational and research needs. To achieve this goal, reference librarians provide research assistance and answer reference questions, both to users in the library, and remotely through telephone and e-mail services.

The objectives of the service are:

  • To provide individual assistance and instruction
  • To provide and maintain an appropriate collection of reference resources, both print and electronic
  • To educate users concerning resources and research techniques in order to help the users to become information literate


Philosophy of Service

The provision of high quality, individualized reference services to any library user who asks for assistance is central to our philosophy. In carrying out this philosophy, we adhere to the following principles:

  • Accuracy of information: Accuracy is an important goal of reference service, but the accuracy of published information cannot be guaranteed due to the limitations of available resources and the subject knowledge of individual librarians. It is the library user's responsibility to use judgment in interpreting and using information provided by a reference librarian.
  • Medical and legal questions: Reference librarians assist users to find the information they need. They do not interpret the law, nor advise library users on legal matters or medical matters.
  • Intellectual freedom: Reference librarians provide assistance without bias.
  • Equity of library users: In general, each individual asking a question will be treated equally in terms of thoroughness and attention. If a library user who is not affiliated with the University requires extensive assistance at a time when other users need assistance, the librarian must use judgment to ensure that the needs of affiliated users are being met.
  • Privacy: The privacy of users' queries are respected. Discussion among reference librarians of users' queries is appropriate when seeking a colleague's advice on best sources, or when a question and its answer is instructive for other librarians who work at the reference desk.
  • A helpful and welcoming attitude is essential to the provision of quality reference service.


Priorities of Service

Reference services are provided on a first-come-first-served basis. Users in the library take priority over telephone callers and e-mail queries. Telephone callers who ask for assistance when the librarian is busy will be called back as soon as possible. When a user's queries involve protracted in-depth assistance, the Reference Librarian may get the user started and then assist others, coming back to the first user as soon as possible. Users with in-depth research assistance are encouraged to make an appointment with a subject librarian for a consultation. Recognizing that many library users are now physically remote from the library when assistance is needed, it is our goal to provide, as much as possible, full reference service for questions received in the library, by telephone, and by e-mail.



It is sometimes necessary to refer library users to other collections or other librarians, both within the University or externally. When making referrals to other subject librarians within the University Libraries, the referring librarian will generally contact the librarian first, indicating the nature of the question and the sources that have been checked. When making referrals to other libraries, the referring librarian will, when possible, contact that library to ensure that the user will receive assistance there.