Assessing reference staff competency in the electronic environment

Kurt I. Munson, Linda J. Walton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This paper shows how the Galter Health Sciences Library of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine developed and implemented a program to assess reference staff competencies for assisting users in the electronic environment after completing a new training program. The first phase was a year-long assessment of reference questions to identify the types of questions received at the desk. Next, a training program for reference was developed and implemented with an emphasis on answering the most common questions identified such as remote access, access privileges, holdings information, and database searching. The program included individualized instruction on library policies, electronic resources, access restrictions, and troubleshooting. The next phase was to create instruments to test staff competencies in answering questions after training. Based on the scores, additional training was individualized and provided to the appropriate staff member to enhance their skills where needed. The training system that was developed has proven to be effective as most staff scored better than 92% on initial testing. As a result, library management can be certain that users’ questions are being answered correctly and that the staff has the skills required to work in an electronic environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Reference Services Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 5 2004


  • Electronic resources
  • Reference staff
  • Staff assessment
  • Staff competencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Library and Information Sciences


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