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ACRL Definitions for Information Services for Individuals & Groups: Home

"Information Services to Individuals" (January 2023) - ACRL survey instruction excerpt

NOTE: Highlighting below is by SCC librarians, not ACRL

Transactions and consultation interactions are defined as information contacts that involve the knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more resources by a member of the library staff.  The term includes information and referral service.

Resources include printed, online, and non-printed materials, e-resources and databases (including assistance with computer searching), the library’s own catalogs and holdings records, equipment and software for (digital) academic projects, other libraries and institutions through communication or referral, and persons both inside and outside the library.

Transactions include walk-ups in person at a service point and interactions conducted by phone, e-mail, Web interface, or other medium.  Include information and referral services.

  • Do not report directional transactions here.

A directional transaction is an information contact which facilitates the use of the library in which the contact occurs, and which does NOT involve the knowledge, use, recommendation, interpretation, or instruction in the use of any information sources other than those which describe the library, such as schedules, floor plans, handbooks, and policy statements. Examples of directional transactions include giving instruction in locating, within the library, staff, library users, or physical features, etc., and giving assistance of a non-bibliographic, non- teaching/instructional nature with equipment or software.

  • If a contact includes both reference and directional services, it should be reported as one transaction. When a staff member uses information gained from previous use of information sources to answer a question, the request is reported as an information request even if the source is not consulted again.
  • It is up to the discretion of library staff whether multiple questions from the same patron during the same session count as multiple transactions or continuations of the same.

Consultations are one-on-one or small group appointments that are often scheduled in advance, occur outside of the classroom or a service point, and require staff preparation or equivalent previous relevant experience. Include interactions that took place in person or were conducted by phone, e-mail, Web interface, or other medium.

This may include any walkup transactions if the person initially asked could not answer the question and the question is referred to another person with the appropriate and aligned knowledge, no matter what the length or topic discussed.

A specific example of a walk-up transaction becoming a consultation is when a question posed at the reference desk cannot be answered at the desk at that moment for whatever reason. The person at the desk may encourage the patron to schedule an appointment or contact an appropriate person in their office to see if they are available. If an appropriate person is available and comes out to the desk, or invites the patron back to their office, this would be a reference consultation albeit unscheduled.

Source: ACRL Annual Services Instructions and Definitions - Revised 20 January 2023  (pp.27-29, sections 64-69)

Information Services to Groups (January 2023)

These are information contacts planned in advance in which a staff member, or a person invited by a staff member, provides information intended for a number of persons. Information services to groups includes information literacy instruction as well as cultural, recreational, or other educational presentations, e.g., library tours, workshops facilitated by library staff, and presentations or lectures given by experts invited by library staff. Presentations both on and off the library premises are included if the library sponsors them. If library staff attend sessions planned for any interested members of the institution, their counts should be included." *


  • Meetings sponsored by outside groups using the library’s meeting spaces. [NISO 39.7-2013, section 7.8.3, wording modified]
  • Presentations planned for library staff (including those for internal and external library staff, and those for non-student and student library staff).

Source: ACRL Annual Services Instructions and Definitions - Revised 20 January 2023  (pp.30-31, sections 70-75)

Instructional Services Librarian