Blog Insights

The role of the library in supporting patron reference management 

Sharing 5 key insights from our session at ER&L Conference 2023

Back in March we were delighted to present three sessions at ER&L Conference 2023 in Austin, Texas on how libraries can amplify their value on campus. In this blog, we round-up 5 key insights from one of our sessions, Right place, right reference: The role of the library in supporting patron reference management.

The session investigated issues around referencing that researchers face, and the role of the library in supporting them. It looked at practical institutional experiences of adopting different reference managers. 

Read on for a summary of 5 key insights from the session or watch the session recording to see Daniel Horvath (Product Director, Technology from Sage), Barbara Renner (Liaison Librarian, University of Chapel Hill) and Christine Gomola (Reference & Research Librarian, UNC Highway Safety Research Center) discuss in full.


1. The role of the library is forever evolving

Libraries have had to adapt as services move to digital spaces and patrons adopt an “I want this now” mentality. This puts libraries and librarians in challenging situations relating to how they can best support their patrons in the post-pandemic and digital world.

2. There are different expectations relating to the patron-librarian relationship

In our latest report titled Librarian Futures Report Part II: The Knowledge Gap between Librarians and Students we found that 50% of students surveyed see the library’s role in supporting studies as “providing access to academic resources”. This shows the importance of finding new ways to equip libraries and librarians to support their patrons. You can download the report here.

3. Liaison librarians develop systematic reviews for user needs

Liaison librarians help users select which referencing tools to use for their research based on sets of criteria and systematic reviews. For example, mobile access, reduplication, identified notes, sending to Excel and many more. Researchers needs are different by project and not necessarily by type of user. These charts help librarians talk to each other across the different disciplines and choose where to put their funding.

4. The role of the library regarding referencing tools involves educating themselves on what their users need

UNC Highway Safety Research Center have added guidance on their webpage about Citing and Writing tools. Users can register for instructional support classes, for example, an introduction to Zotero or advanced uses of Sciwheel. Users can either attend in-person workshops for the induction training or watch it virtually via Zoom. The role of the librarian is to educate themselves on what their users need and advise users on which reference management tool is best suited for their projects.

5. Reference management tools make life so much easier for researchers

Whether through supporting documentation, or virtual onboarding, librarians can outline the functionalities of each product, and advice students on which reference management tool best suits their projects.

When reference management tools, such as Sciwheel or Zotero, enable users to save references directly from the web and save the links as citations – it’s just beautiful (according to Christine)!

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