Reference is Dead, Long Live Reference: Electronic Collections in the Digital Age

Heather B. Terrell


In a literature survey on how reference collections have changed to accommodate patrons’ web-based information-seeking behaviors, one notes a marked “us vs. them” mentality — a fear that the Internet might render reference irrelevant. These anxieties are oft-noted in articles urging libraries to embrace digital and online reference sources. Why all the ambivalence? Citing existing research and literature, this essay explores myths about the supposed superiority of physical reference collections and how patrons actually use them, potential challenges associated with electronic reference collections and how providing vital e-reference collections benefits the library as well as its patrons.

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