So our department heads and administrators are reviewing some statistical policies. (Hooray to those folks for working on stuff like that so liaisons like me don’t have to!) We learned that the current ACRL definition of “consultation” is:
Consultations are one-on-one or small group appointments (i.e., scheduled) with a library staff member outside of the classroom. Include consultations conducted in a physical or digital/electronic manner. Include appointments made with special collections or archives staff. This does not include any walk-up transactions, no matter what the length or topic discussed [emphasis mine]. [Source — PDF]
So all you subject and functional specialists out there, what do you think of that definition?
Scenario 1: a PhD student walks by, sees you are in your office, and asks after a greeting “So I worked on that research strategy regarding my dissertation we talked about last week — that was great advice by the way, thanks! — can I talk about a follow-up problem with you?” And then you chat about this for 15 minutes.
Scenario 2: You get a chat message from a student team working in a computer lab at the other end of the library: “Hey, Steve, our Export Odyssey team has a problem with our shift-share analysis of the trade data — can we come over and talk about it for a few minutes?” And they do, as we examine their Excel formulae for a while.
So according to ACRL, these two scenarios are not consultations. Instead they are just reference questions, equal to “Where is the bathroom?” and “How late is the library open?”
Pretty foolish definition of a consultation IMO.
Library specialists (whether in subject matter, formats like government information, or technology) generate consultations through their special skills, skills their target market learn about through proactive engagement with classes, friendly and inviting library guides, word of mouth marketing, etc.
So a consultation to me is a substantial research session — both scheduled and unscheduled — in which patrons seek out a specific library specialist for his/her specialized knowledge and skills; the consultation can be in person, online, or by phone.
(Yes, we could debate what “substantial” means.)
Ok, not the most elegant definition, but I hope you get my drift there. This ACRL committee needs to get out of its traditional library mindset to embrace and encourage the vital role of library specialists who actively promote their skills and services to students and faculty. The results of such work can be research appointments as well as pleasant surprises.