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Library Service Desk

What is the READ Scale?

The READ Scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data) is a six-point scale tool developed by Bella Karr Gerlich, PhD for recording vital supplemental qualitative statistics gathered when reference librarians assist users with their inquiries or research-related activities by placing an emphasis on recording the effort, skills, knowledge, teaching moment, techniques and tools utilized by the librarian during a reference transaction.

Level 1 Questions

Answers to Level 1 questions:

  1. Answers that require the least amount of effort;
  2. No specialized knowledge skills or expertise;
  3. No consultation of resources;
  4. Less than 5 minutes;

Examples of Level 1 questions:

  1. Directional inquiries;
  2. Library or service hours;
  3. Service point locations;
  4. Rudimentary machine assistance (locating/using copiers, how to print or supplying paper).

Level 2 Questions

Answers to Level 2 questions:

  1. Answers given which require more effort;
  2. Require only minimal specific knowledge skills or expertise;
  3. Answers may need nominal resource consultation.

Examples of Level 2 questions:

  1. Call number inquiries;
  2. Item location;
  3. Minor machine & computer equipment assistance;
  4. General library or policy information;
  5. More complex machine assistance (how to save to a disk or email records, launching programs or re-booting)

Level 3 Questions

Answers to Level 3 questions:

  1. Answers in this category require some effort and time;
  2. Consultation of ready reference resource materials is needed;
  3. Minimal instruction of the user may be required;
  4. Reference knowledge and skills come into play.

Examples of Level 3 questions:

  1. Answers that require specific reference resources (encyclopedias or databases);
  2. Basic instruction on searching the online catalog;
  3. Direction to relevant subject databases;
  4. Introduction to web searching for a certain item;
  5. How to scan and save images;
  6. Increasingly complex technical problems (assistance with remote use).

Level 4 Questions

Answers to Level 4 questions:

  1. Answers or research requests require the consultation of multiple resources
  2. Subject specialists may need to be consulted and more thorough instruction and assistance occurs.
  3. Reference knowledge and skills needed.
  4. Efforts can be more supportive in nature for the user, or if searching for a finite answer, difficult to find.
  5. Exchanges can be more instruction based as staffs teach users more in-depth research skills.

Examples of Level 4 questions:

  1. Instructing users how to utilize complex search techniques for the online catalog, databases and the web;
  2. How to cross-reference resources and track related supporting materials;
  3. Services outside of reference become utilized (ILL, Tech services, etc), collegial consultation;
  4. Assisting users in focusing or broadening searches (helping to re-define or clarify a topic)

Level 5 Questions

Answers to Level 5 questions:

  1. More substantial effort and time spent assisting with research and finding information.
  2. On the high end of the scale, subject specialists need to be consulted.
  3. Consultation appointments with individuals might be scheduled.
  4. Efforts are cooperative in nature, between the user and librarian and or working with colleagues.
  5. Multiple resources used.
  6. Research, reference knowledge and skills needed.
  7. Dialogue between the user and librarian may take on a 'back and forth question' dimension.

Examples of Level 5 questions:

  1. False leads
  2. Interdisciplinary consultations / research;
  3. Question evolution;
  4. Expanding searches / resources beyond those locally available;
  5. Graduate research;
  6. Difficult outreach problems (access issues that need to be investigated).

Level 6 Questions

Answers to Level 6 questions:

  1. The most effort and time expended.
  2. Inquiries or requests for information can't be answered on the spot.
  3. At this level, staff may be providing in-depth research and services for specific needs of the clients.
  4. This category covers some 'special library' type research services.
  5. Primary (original documents) and secondary resource materials may be used.

Examples of Level 6 questions:

  1. Creating bibliographies and bibliographic education;
  2. In-depth faculty and PhD student research;
  3. Relaying specific answers and supplying supporting materials for publication, exhibits etc; working with outside vendors;
  4. Collaboration and on-going research.