Career path: Reference and information services

A career in reference and information services is centered around helping individuals access and use information effectively, making it a rewarding profession for those who enjoy connecting people with the knowledge they seek. Reference librarianship involves helping information seekers access and use information and resources. Reference librarians assist patrons to navigate libraries, locate relevant materials and guide research. They are skilled in using various databases, catalogs and print and online reference materials to answer queries. Additionally, they may provide guidance on research methodologies and help users develop effective search strategies to retrieve relevant information. Reference librarians play a crucial role in connecting people with the information they need, promoting readers’ advisory, literacy, and supporting lifelong learning. Strong communication and research skills are essential for success in this field.

Jobs in reference and information services can encompass a wide range of roles and responsibilities depending on the type of institution and the specific needs of its users, but often involve customer service, community engagement and collection development.

Examples of reference services jobs in different types of libraries:

These roles showcase the diverse applications of reference services across different library settings.

  • Public Library
    • Reference librarian: assists patrons with book recommendations, research inquiries and accessing community resources
    • Information ppecialist: focuses on providing information and resources to diverse community members
  • Academic library
    • Reference librarian: assists students and faculty with academic research, database navigation and provides citation assistance
    • Subject area specialist: offers in-depth research support to students and faculty
  • Special library (corporate or law library)
    • Corporate research librarian: supports employees with industry-specific information, market research and business-related inquiries
    • Legal research specialist: assists legal professionals in accessing legal databases, statutes and case law
  • Medical Library
    • Medical reference librarian: provides health care professionals with access to medical literature, research articles and health information
    • Health sciences information specialist: focuses on resources related to various health disciplines and medical research

Recommended courses

*Required for MLIS students

Related SIS student organization(s)