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Improving Student Learning at the Reference Desk? Taking Notes During Reference Transactions

Bonnie J. M. Swoger
Kim Davies Hoffman
State University of New York Librarians Association Annual Conference, Buffalo State College
June 12 to 14, 2013

[Note: A peer-reviewed article discussing the results of this work appears in Reference Services Review, 2015, v. 43, no. 2, doi: 10.1108/RSR-11-2014-0054. A post-print is available here.]


During the Fall 2011 semester, SUNY Geneseo surveyed students after reference transactions to ask them “What did you learn during your meeting with the librarian?” Based on student responses, we identified some areas for improvement and set out to close the loop on our assessment.  After a pilot phase at the end of the Fall 2012 semester, we implemented a system for taking notes during reference transactions in Spring 2013. Librarians recorded the keywords, search strategies and resources discussed during the transaction.  The library kept a copy of this page of notes for later analysis and the student was able to take a copy with them.  At the same time, we repeated our survey of student learning, and asked students if they found the pages of notes useful. We will discuss our survey results, our analysis of the notes taken, and librarians’ thoughts about the note-taking strategy.


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