Reference Policy

Reference Policy

The Val Verde County Library is dedicated to providing access to information, knowledge and ideas. The Reference Services Librarian and all Library staff strive to provide quality informational resources and services for our users. 

Purpose and General Provisions of Reference Service

The goal of the reference staff at Val Verde County Library is to provide accurate information and materials in an efficient, courteous, and timely manner. To achieve this goal, the Library will maintain a collection of general reference resources, including electronic resources that will be available for use by the Library patrons and reference staff. Library patrons requesting information or materials will be assisted by staff within the limits imposed by: (1) available resources, and (2) policies, practices, and guidelines established by the Val Verde County Library.

Access and Service to Non-Residents

Non-residents will be assisted with local library resources. If the request proves to be beyond the scope of the resources available at the Library, or if the information requested necessitates extensive research by staff, non-resident patrons might be referred to their home libraries or other agencies for service. Remote access to many of the electronic resources to which the Library subscribes requires password authentication and use is limited to Val Verde County Library cardholders. 

Forms of Inquiry and Responses to Requests for Assistance

Inquiries are accepted in person, by telephone, by electronic means and through the mail. 

Reference services will be provided during all hours the Library is open. When working at a service desk, response to patron service needs, including reference inquiries, takes precedence over other staff duties.

Requests are handled in the order in which they are received. Requests submitted by patrons in-person at the Library are given priority over telephone requests that are received at the same time. Reference staff members will attempt to answer questions at the time the request is made and to work within the patron’s time requirements. If necessary, staff will inform the patron that a longer response time is needed or that assistance should be sought from another library or agency.

Staff will offer the best options available when providing reader’s advisory service or recommending the best source to answer a question. 

Staff will not provide the following kinds of assistance, which are deemed to be beyond the scope of the Library’s service responsibilities:

Specific Reference Question Guidelines  

  • Book, Antique and Art Appraisals – Patrons will be referred to appropriate reference sources, consultants, or experts. Staff members will never give a personal appraisal of the value of an object. 
  • Consumer Evaluations – Staff will help patrons locate objective consumer product information using the online resources and magazines. Short published consumer ratings will be read over the phone.  However, in depth consumer information must be read by the patron. The staff does not offer personal opinions recommending one product over another. 
  • Contest Questions – Contest questions will be approached with the same guidelines and time limits as any other type of reference question. The staff will not interpret contest rules. 
  • Genealogical/Local History Questions – Staff members will provide assistance in locating items in the collection and help in obtaining resources through microfilm and electronic resources to answer genealogical questions. If more extensive research is required to answer question, patron will be referred to the appropriate person(s). 
  • Medical or Legal Questions – The Val Verde County Library does not provide advice in the areas of medicine or law. Staff will provide information but should not interpret or evaluate that information.  They will provide instruction in the use of resources, enabling users to pursue information independently and effectively if so desired. If the patron has trouble understanding the source provided, an alternative source may be sought.  If no appropriate sources can be located, the patron could be referred to local legal or medical services for interpretation of the information. 
  • Research – Patrons needing extensive bibliographies, lists, statistics, or research will be directed to the appropriate resources and offered as much assistance as staff time allows. Patrons may be referred to other libraries or agencies for further assistance. 
  • School Assignments – Every effort will be made to satisfactorily answer student questions and to provide sources of information and instruction needed to use those resources.  If every effort has been made by the staff member and the student to locate information without results, the student will be encouraged to return to the teacher for further instructions or an altered assignment.
  • Tax Forms and Questions – The Val Verde County Library does not provide advice in the areas of taxes. Staff will provide resources but will not interpret or evaluate the information found in these resources.  If the patron has trouble understanding the source provided, an alternative source may be sought.  If no appropriate sources can be located, the patron will be referred to the state/federal Internal Revenue Services for interpretation of the information. 

When answering a patron’s reference question, reference staff will cite the resource(s) from which the information is obtained. The producers of that resource, not the Library itself, are responsible for that resource’s accuracy. The librarian will decide when all reasonable resource options have been exhausted at the Library and when it is time to cease working on a question and refer the patron elsewhere.

If it proves to be both possible and practical to do so, staff will attempt to guide and instruct patrons in the use of library resources when responding to reference inquiries.

Staff will assist as they are able in helping patrons with computer applications or electronic reading/listening devices and may refer patrons to appropriate books, online tutorials, or classes for further assistance. When assisting patrons with computer resources, staff will not enter personal information for patrons.

The library stocks basic Federal tax forms during tax season. If patrons request a form that we do not have, we will print the appropriate form from the Internal Revenue web site. If more information is required, the patron will be given contact information for the state/federal Internal Revenue Services. (See also Fees)

Loan of Reference Materials

Some reference materials may be checked out at the discretion of the Reference Services Librarian or senior staff. Materials may be checked out for up to one week to anyone with a Val Verde County Library Card in good standing.  At the discretion of the Reference Services Librarian or senior staff member on duty, up to 5 reference items can be checked out at the same time, to the same patron.

The following reference items will not circulate:

  • Any item that is on a shelf marked ‘FOR REFERENCE’ 
  • Any City Directory
  • Items in the Local History/Genealogy collection, marked as ‘FOR REFERENCE’ (other than City Directories) will circulate ONLY at the discretion of Reference Services Librarian or senior staff member on duty.


The Val Verde County Library does not charge for reference service.  Fees may be charged for photocopies or postage. The Library will print travel directions (i.e. MapQuest) at no charge. The Library will print up to two (2) copies of tax forms that we do not have. A fee will be charged for printing forms or tax form instructions. 

One on One Library Assistance

Reference staff may be available to work one-on-one with patrons to assist in their information needs. One-on-one sessions are generally scheduled for 30 minutes. The Library will accept appointments and may assist with drop-in requests, as time permits for the reference staff.