Introduction to Library and Information Science/Annotation of Lankes, R David. "The Foundations of Digital Reference."

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Lankes, R. David. “The Foundations of Digital Reference.” In Digital Reference Service in the New Millennium: Planning, Management, and Evaluation, edited by R. David Lankes, John W. Collins, III, and Abby S. Kasowitz. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2000.

This is actually the introduction of Digital Reference Service in the New Millennium: Planning, Management, and Evaluation. In it, Lankes examines the emerging field of digital reference, how it affects the traditional reference staff and service, and addresses two key issues, “scalability” and “ambiguity”.

Lankes makes the argument that the availability and use of digital resources are fundamentally changing the definition of what defines the traditional role of “reference services”, and that library reference staff are now becoming “information brokers”, because of the nature of the digital environment and changing user expectations. He discusses two issues, scalability (the ability to service growth), and ambiguity (identifying resources needed to meet user’s needs). He describes several differing initiatives that have been or could be brought into play to address these issues, both alterations of existing reference practices, and new methods of providing relevant reference services in a digital age.

His arguments are sound, and pose fundamental questions as to what defines a “Library” and “Reference Services”, as one would expect in the introductory chapter of a book on the changing role the digital world plays in the reference field. Some of the questions and possible solutions, however, seem very radical and unrealistic given the fragmented standard reference environment based on local libraries, both from a funding and staffing perspective, and assumes that some “entity” (modeled on the private sector) will provide a more centralized construct more appropriate for the digital age.