Reference Policy

Mission Statement
The mission of the Pinellas Park Public Library's Reference Department is to provide information, materials, and services to meet our patrons' personal, educational, and professional needs, while striving to maintain a current, accurate, and accessible collection in a variety of formats.

Reference Staff
The staff of the Pinellas Park Public Library's Reference Department are professionals who abide by the American Library Association's Code of Ethics. All patron needs will be taken seriously and treated with respect and confidentiality. Information will be provided without making a judgment on its moral or aesthetic worth. Librarians will rely upon information obtained from reputable sources whenever possible in order to give the most accurate and authoritative answers to questions, and shall cite the source of the information. Neither the patron's nor the staff member's personal opinions or beliefs will influence the quality of service provided. Staff shall not offer their personal opinions on social issues, politics, religion, etc. to patrons.

Reference Resources
The Pinellas Park Public Library's reference collection is designed to meet the basic personal, professional, and educational needs of our community. The library is not a research facility and is able to provide only limited resources above the high school and introductory college level.

Types of Reference Questions Answered
The reference staff will provide extended assistance, within reason, to patrons in locating information and materials based on available time and the needs of other patrons. The reference staff cannot provide formal research for patrons, however exceptions authorized by the library director, assistant director, or reference services librarian may be made for requests from city administrators. Telephone requests are limited to reasonably quick, factual questions. Reference librarians cannot provide legal, medical, financial, business, tax, appraisal advice, or language translations. Reader's advisory service, or assisting patrons in the selection of fiction or other recreational reading, will be provided as time permits.

School Assignments
These questions are handled in the same manner as any other reference question. With complex or unclear school assignments, librarians should make tactful suggestions to telephone callers or to parents of students that the students come into the library for personal assistance and do their own in-depth research. See Research Tools above for more information on the level of school assignments the library is able to provide assistance with.

Referrals to other libraries and community (or state and national) resources will be made whenever needed to assist a patron with an inquiry. Librarians may not make recommendations to specific lawyers, legal firms, doctors or other medical care providers, or financial professionals.

Interlibrary Loan Materials which are not available in the Pinellas Park Public Library's collection will be borrowed, if available, from another library through Interlibrary Loan, at the patron's request and within the guidelines of the Interlibrary Loan Department. At the Collection Development Librarian's discretion, such items may be purchased for the library's collection.

Patron Priorities
Patrons are served on a first come, first served basis. Patrons are assisted without regard for ability, age, ethnic origin, religion, economic status, gender, or race. Callers will be asked if they would like to wait, to call back, or to be called back before being put on hold. If there are several patrons at the desk needing service, or someone needing several minutes or more assistance, callers will be encouraged to call back or provide contact information to assist them when time permits. For both in-person and telephone requests, if a patron has a time-consuming request, it may be necessary to get him/her started and follow up with them after patrons with simple questions have been served.

Time Limits on Questions
No two reference questions are alike; therefore, no special time limit can be place on an actual question. The amount of time devoted to a question is at the discretion of the reference librarian, as long as it is within reasonable limits and it does not affect the quality of service to other patrons.

E-mail, Fax, Mail, and Chat Questions
E-mail questions are handled by designated staff members as time permits. Replies are made as soon as possible, with no reply to a question taking longer than 72 hours. E-mail questions are limited to brief, factual inquiries. These same rules apply to fax and mail requests, with the addition that no more than four (4) pages will be faxed or mailed without additional fees to defray costs.

Patron Confidentiality
The needs of every library patron will be taken seriously and treated with respect and confidentiality. No record is kept of in-person or telephone reference inquiries. Information from e-mail, fax and mail requests may be kept up to two months to ensure that the information was received by the patron and in case of follow-up inquiries. Retention of chat reference questions are controlled by the administrators of the Ask a Librarian Service. The Reference Department will make every effort to comply with city, state, and federal rules and laws regarding the confidentiality of patron records, as well as the handling of requests made by law enforcement officials regarding those records.