Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Reference Services Review




Purpose The library orientation session is an important marketing tool because it offers the first opportunity for library staff to connect with new clients (Craft and Ballard-Thrower, 2011; Rhoades and Hartsell, 2008). This paper aims to explore library orientation practices in special libraries and information centers with the goal of surveying current practices and identifying guidance for successful orientation program design and delivery.

Design/methodology/approach This study explored library orientation practices in special libraries and information services through an electronic survey. The survey questions were developed based on themes that emerged from case studies on library orientations from the academic library literature. These themes included reasons for library orientation program redesigns, the importance of partnerships in orientation design and delivery and the tools and techniques used in the delivery of orientation sessions.

Findings The results revealed that library orientations are taking place in special libraries, but there is no consistent approach to library orientation delivery. Even within a single library, multiple approaches to library orientations are taken based on client availability, demand and information needs observations of library staff. Participants’ responses were analyzed to develop recommendations for special library orientations. These include developing partnerships (particularly with human resource departments), using technology strategically, considering the timing of orientations for new potential clients in relation to their start as new employees in the host organization, customizing library orientations based on client segment, engaging in ongoing outreach, and being flexible in design and delivery methods.

Research limitations/implications This study represents a starting step in an exploration of library orientation practices in special libraries. The key limitation of this study was the low response rate leading to small sample size. A larger sample of special libraries would be needed to produce a quantitative analysis of the prevalence of practices with an acceptable degree of statistical significance. Alternately, smaller samples of special libraries organized by characteristics such as size or type (e.g. corporate libraries, law libraries and medical libraries) could be conducted to determine if distinctive trends exist within these special library types.

Practical implications This study revealed information about key practices and challenges that can be used by special library practitioners seeking to implement or redesign a library orientation program in their library.

Originality/value While academic and practitioner literature exists detailing library orientation activities in academic and school libraries, there are very few papers on special library orientations. This study fills a gap in the literature by investigating library orientation practices in special libraries and information centers.


This is the post-print of an article published in Reference Services Review, volume 48(4), 2020. The Version of Record is available online at this link.

SJSU users: Use the following link to login and access the article via SJSU databases.