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Reference Assistant, Harvard University / Harvard College Library (Cambridge)

The incumbent provides reference assistance to a large user community, both in person and on the telephone at Widener and Lamont libraries, and online via a question ticketing program (currently LibAnswers) and via chat. Serve as initial information source at the reference desk and online, responding to reference questions of a moderately complex nature, and may serve as principal source during weekends and nights. The incumbent refers in-depth research questions to the appropriate librarian, either within the department, or at other libraries on campus, or elsewhere.

Job-Specific Responsibilities :
-Supports virtual and direct reference services by identifying, answering and reporting questions which come in to Widener and Lamont libraries, in person, by telephone, by e-mail, online, or by other means.  This duty can include assisting users with locating library resources, recommending databases or software (for example, MLA International Bibliography), referring patrons to prepared guides and web sites (for example, Library Research Guide for History), and providing referrals to colleagues and resources beyond Widener and Lamont.

-Provides high quality customer service to users of the library, including anticipating needs and prepositioning resources (for example, checking to confirm that computers and printers are operational, and notifying the IT liaison when problems arise).
-Monitors LibAnswers online reference service on a regular basis.
-Monitors chat reference during scheduled shifts, including evening hours.
-Is proficient with HOLLIS, the library’s main discovery system
-Understands and can explain the multiple call number systems at Widener and Lamont libraries and the complex organization of the buildings and their physical collections.
-Stays apprised of new information, resources, and software tools which are relevant to assisting library patrons.
-Understands and communicates library policy and procedures to users of the library, including online users. Includes knowledge of library policies at other Harvard schools.
-Consistently tracks statistics of transactions at service points, and assists in other statistics-gathering projects.
-Offers regular tours of Widener Library, and also assists at large outreach events (for example, Junior Family Weekend).
-Has knowledge of library’s Circulation tools, to assist users by charging materials, checking progress of requests, determining status of materials, checking user’s accounts.
-Helps monitor the daily functions of the LibAnswers online ticketing system. Includes answering basic questions from users, triaging more advanced questions to the appropriate subject specialist or library, and assigning research appointment requests to the appropriate librarian. Helps maintain knowledge base of FAQs, including adding new questions and updating existing questions.
-Works with subject librarians to ensure that research guides are current, including updating links when necessary and suggesting additional resources as needed.
Performs bibliographic searching as assigned.

Working Conditions :
The work associated with this position is performed primarily in Widener Library at the Reference or Information Desks, at the Unified Service Point in Lamont Library, or in a personal workspace.

Diversity and Inclusion at the Harvard Library

Across the Harvard Library, our work is enriched by our diverse campus community. Our unique and wide-ranging abilities, experiences, and perspectives are integral to achieving Harvard University’s mission of excellence in research, teaching, and learning for our patrons, our collections, and our workplace. We believe that an inclusive environment that cultivates and promotes understanding, respect, and collaboration across our diverse workforce enables our success.

We invite individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and abilities to be a part of our community of over 700 staff members. Our work with faculty, students and researchers to explore answers to intellectual questions, enduring and new, and to seek solutions to the world’s most consequential problems, requires that we not only reflect, but also champion our diverse society.

Harvard Library inspires collaboration, reflection, experimentation, and discovery connecting users to related disciplines and to University-wide teaching resources. The Library engages users through curated discovery, digital collections, reimagined physical space, and specialized research support.  Today, Harvard Library’s holdings range from traditional print collections to rapidly expanding access to digital resources. Harvard Library provides the University's faculty, students, and researchers—now and in the future—with exceptional experiences and comprehensive access to these materials.

Learn more about our contributions to the academic enterprise by visiting us at and about the Harvard University community at 

The Harvard Library is a proud member of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Diversity Alliance.

EEO Statement :
We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or any other characteristic protected by law.


Basic Qualifications :
HS diploma
Three or more years of work experience. Education beyond high school may count toward experience

Additional Qualifications :
BA preferred
Two or more years of experience providing reference or other assistance in library setting
Strong customer service skills
Proficiency with the online Harvard library system, including HOLLIS+ and other digital resources preferred
Excellent verbal and written communication skills and demonstrated ability to work with a diverse public
Ability to communicate professionally and effectively with student assistants, coworkers, supervisors, patrons and librarians
Excellent organizational skills
Basic familiarity with languages, especially European, is useful
Ability to work both independently and as part of a team

Physical Requirements :
While performing the duties of the job, the employee is regularly required to hold and manipulate books and other library materials. The employee is occasionally required to stand, walk, reach and stoop. The employee must occasionally lift objects of up to 10 pounds. The job requires some occasional typing.

Full/Part Time

Full Time




Closing Date

How to Apply

To view the complete position description and to apply, see here: 


2020-01-24 |  Quick link to this job