Global Reference Network Member Guidelines

While quality research and answers are recognized as the goals of any cooperative reference service, these guidelines apply expressly to the global network accessed exclusively through the QuestionPoint service.

Local, regional, or subject-affiliated groups that use QuestionPoint as their cooperative management tool are not specifically addressed in these guidelines, although we think that they apply equally well, in spirit at least, to all groups sharing digital reference resources.


General Guidelines
Quality and Accuracy
Response Time
Appropriate Response
Monitoring Effectiveness
Performance Expectations

General Guidelines

Worldwide cooperative reference and information service, using the knowledge and resources of a wide range of libraries and professional information services is an aim of QuestionPoint. This unique and innovative global network enables member institutions around the world to expand and enhance their information services through access to and delivery of materials owned by other institutions within the QuestionPoint service. QuestionPoint provides comprehensive reference services through superior response and delivery.

QuestionPoint global network members may be libraries, colleges and universities, archives, historical societies, museums, and other institutions which provide professional reference services to end users anywhere, anytime, through an international digital network.

Members recognize both the benefits that QuestionPoint provides and the obligations of participants to review and support policies, monitor their own performance, and manage their internal workflow to optimize these benefits. The success of the QuestionPoint global network as a whole is dependent upon a high level of responsible participation.

Questions should be answered promptly, and answers must respond to the stated information need. Members are reminded to show courtesy and professional respect when answering questions posed by any QuestionPoint members.

For both electronic and print materials, each institution will comply with its contractual licensing agreements, specific restrictions of use, and the copyright laws governing the materials in question.

All members are expected to comply with the Performance Expectations.

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Quality and Accuracy

Quality of answers and accuracy of facts is critical to all reference work. The success of the QuestionPoint global network depends on maintaining the highest level of reference service. To meet the overall goal of quality reference service:

  • Participants ensure that answers supplied through QuestionPoint are provided by qualified librarians, subject experts, or staff with general reference training.
  • The institution will assign staff and responsibilities in the implementation of QuestionPoint.
  • The institution should examine its existing procedures and policies to determine whether these apply to the new service and, if necessary, adapt these policies and procedures to fulfill QuestionPoint guidelines.
  • All answers will be provided within the confines of the institution's current copyright law and guidelines.
  • Answers are to be provided by either a subject specialist or qualified staff.
  • Members are expected to answer 100% of questions that are assigned, or reject for redistribution in a timely manner in order to allow for turnaround time after reassignment.
  • As with all good reference work, complete citations of the source(s) of the answer should accompany the answer.

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Response Time

Prompt response and delivery of accurate and complete information are benchmarks of QuestionPoint success. QuestionPoint members that answer questions give a high priority to the service within their institutions. While there will be some variation among members depending on hours and resource availability, the QuestionPoint global network requires an institutional commitment for effective service. To meet the overall goal of prompt turnaround time:

  • Participants check for new questions on a regular basis, in a timely fashion, no fewer than two times per day.
  • For responses to questions, the service aims for 100% compliance with the stated turnaround time of the assigned question.
  • Participants are expected to ensure that all participating staff are familiar with QuestionPoint policies and procedures.
  • Participants ensure that staff throughout the institution who are involved in processing reference questions are aware of QuestionPoint performance goals.

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Appropriate Response

All responses should be written clearly and relate to the level of the inquiry. For example, a factual response may be provided to K-12 patrons but a detailed response with citations should be supplied for a research question.

  • Members are expected to have access to a range of both digital resources (such as databases) and print materials to provide answers to questions.
  • Staff members answering research questions on behalf of the QuestionPoint service should be professionally qualified (having an MLS equivalent, subject-area degree, and/or significant experience answering reference questions at their own institutions). All contributions to the collaborative service should be subject to regular supervisory or peer review.
  • Target: 100% of questions answered at a level relevant to the questioner (e.g. K-12, research) and 100% of questions answered by either a qualified librarian, subject specialist or certified staff member.

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Monitoring Effectiveness

The quality of answers provided through the QuestionPoint global network is essential to ensure the success of the network. Responsibility for ensuring and maintaining high standards of excellence is shared by all QuestionPoint members. The monitoring of responses is essential to maintain the high quality of the service.

  • QuestionPoint members will be required to provide training to staff who answer questions and to monitor the quality of answers.
  • Monitoring of service standards will be an objective of QuestionPoint. Responses will be sampled annually by the QuestionPoint global administrator.

    Target: Up to 20% of all responses will be internally monitored by the global administrator.
  • QuestionPoint employs peer monitoring as a method of quality review. Members are encouraged to report infractions of these guidelines and performance expectations to the global administrator.

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Performance Expectations

QuestionPoint follows the standards as set forth in Facets of Quality for Digital Reference Services, a set of standards for organizations to achieve in creating and maintaining digital reference services.

Also, the following general guidelines* provide a framework for quality reference service. Participants will:

  • Deliver and maintain the highest level of service and will uphold the principles of intellectual freedom.
  • Offer accurate, skillful, and unbiased responses to reference requests.
  • Avoid manipulation of information that is likely to mislead.
  • Distinguish between views that are personal, those of the employing institution, or professional body in order to provide unbiased information.
  • Provide equitable access and service policies.
  • Recognize and respect intellectual property rights.
  • Protect the user's right to privacy.
  • Avoid situations where personal interests may be served for financial benefits gained at the institution's expense, users, or colleagues.

*Adapted from the Australian Library and Information Association Statement on Professional Ethics, and from the American Library Association, Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.

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