In 1995 a survey was made at six public libraries in the county of Ostergotland in order to examine the reference service and the use of reference collections. In this paper the methods of the survey are described and the results from two libraries in Norrkoping and Linkoping are being analysed.
In the survey several methods were used. During a fortnight observations were made of the use of reference books by the visitors in the reference section. The books were listed. The librarians work at the information desk were also observed at the same time and the librarians wrote all their transactions down as well as their use of reference tools. Two questionnaires were distributed, one to the visitors at the reference section, one to the visitors at the information desk.
The results in short: The collections of reference books were extensive, old and not so well used. The visitors used these collections more than the librarians (6-7% versus 1-2%). The location of the reference books means much to the use. The users of reference books are
mostly students. There are many questions asked by the visitors and often queus are formed at the information desk . Most questions are simple to solve and depending on diffculties of the visitors to find the books on the right shelves. Both libraries have small assets and shortages in the collections make requested books and subjects hard to find for the visitors. At the information desk there are a lot of other transactions than reference questions like selling, reservations, Pc-help and so on. The librarians used the library catalogue in nearly half of the questions but that was the only reference tool which was used more than marginal. The visitors at the reference desk were mostly students but there were no big differences between students frequency and the general public.
Finally the survey shows that the quality of the reference service can and must be improved. There are needs for organisational changes as well as further education of the staff. The libraries in the survey need to focus on the customer's quality more to improve their reference service.