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Info521 week2


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  • 1. INFO 521 Week 2: The Reference Interview
  • 2. Agenda • Last week – Introduced ourselves – Discussed important concepts • Mental models, information, reference service • History of reference service • This week – Reference interviewing • Questions & question negotiation 2
  • 3. What is a “Reference Librarian”? • A qualified person who works in a reference library or provides reference service • Qualifications: ALA accredited degree, etc. • Functions: Reference librarians supply information and control the retrieval systems – How do we supply information?—by answering reference questions. – What retrieval systems do we use?—LCSH, Database structures, OPACs, Internet Search tools, etc.
  • 4. A Reference Librarian is also… • One who helps when search engines fail • One who finds authoritative information • One who finds unbiased information • One who helps to find information that is not freely accessible • One who helps users to figure out what they want/need The larger question and the one at the core of this course is how do we do these things?
  • 5. The Reference Interview This lecture introduces the topic of reference interviewing and the types of reference questions one might encounter. It also covers the question negotiation process and question strategies that lend themselves to a successful interview. 5
  • 6. Definition • Reference interview – a dialogue between someone in need of information and someone able to give assistance in finding it. (Katz) • 50-60% of all interactions are not reference interviews but are directional and ready reference. – Directional– provides assistance in finding and using library services, collections and facilities. • Where is the…? – Ready reference—questions asking for simple, factual answers; the answer should be readily ascertainable from available information sources. Questions are clear, concise– and require no further consultation with the patron before the answer is found. • What is the population of NJ? 6
  • 7. Taxonomy of Reference Questions Reference questions have been classified into the following 7 types (Katz, 2000): 1. Description – Questions asking for a description of something, briefer in length than the original thing (basically, an abstract). 2. Readers advisory – Questions asking for assistance in the choice of books or the gathering of data. 7
  • 8. Taxonomy of Reference Questions 3. Bibliographic instruction – Questions asking for assistance in use of information source(s). 4. Research – Questions asking for involved answers; the answer should require some effort and wide use of information sources to formulate. 5. Citation list – Questions asking for a list of information sources on a particular subject. 8
  • 9. Taxonomy of Reference Questions 6. Analysis – Questions asking for some form of data analysis, whatever that data might be-scientific, social, financial, etc. Questions of this type might ask for trends, pro or con arguments, cause and effect, compare and contrast, etc. 7. Critique – Questions asking for an evaluative discussion of a particular subject. (E.g., a movie review, Cliffs notes-like analyses of a book). 9
  • 10. The Reference Interview The reference interview has 4 parts. 1. Opening the interview 2. Searching for information 3. Closure (response) 4. Follow-up 10
  • 11. Reference Interview Success • Success in negotiating an answer depends upon how well the librarian handles the interview situation. • Certain library-related factors will influence the reference transaction. – Environment/setting of the reference service – Dialogue with the patron 11
  • 12. Environment/setting The setting influences the reference transaction. Guidelines for making the environment welcoming: • Physical environment The Reference station should be: visible, clearly marked, informal, unimposing, (not an institutional barrier). • I’ve heard of one reference desk referred to as the battleship. • A sign which reads, “Please interrupt” is an option for reference librarians who must complete tasks/reports at the desk. • Where is the reference desk located? What height is it? Are there chairs for the patrons to sit while they speak with you? 12
  • 13. 1. Opening the interview • Setting an approachable tone can be done by using certain techniques: – Body language - Smile or make eye contact. Reference Librarian should look approachable (not busy with paper work, engrossed in his computer screen). – Self-revelation—Introduce yourself – Greeting- Greet the inquirer, be on the same level: signal an understanding of patrons’ needs through verbal or non- verbal confirmation • I try to stand to greet the patron or have a chair at the same level. 13
  • 14. 2. Searching for information • Stage two involves the search for information. This has several components: – Question negotiation process – Questioning strategies – Conducting the search for information 14
  • 15. Communication/question negotiation process • Robert Taylor (1968) identified 4 stages in the question negotiation 1. Unexpressed need for information (visceral) 2. Within-brain description (conscious need for info) 3. Formal statement of info need 4. The compromised need or question-- patron is asking it in a way that he believes the information system or librarian will understand it • The librarian’s task is to work through these stages 15
  • 16. Communication/question negotiation process Taylor: A librarian uses filters to sift questions. Questions go through 5 filters that assist in the search for answers 1. Determine the subject 2. Understand the user 3. Determine the objective and motivation of patron 4. Determine the relationship of the inquiry to file organization: Potential sources: OPAC, Union List, Database, Index 5. Determine the anticipated or acceptable answer: Level of information wanted; time frame for answer. 16
  • 17. Communication/question negotiation process • Problems can occur in the process: – The question may not be asked with precision. • For example—The patron asks, “Where are your books on English Literature?” The patron really wants any material on the image of the ‘dark tower’ in English literature”. • Another example—The patron asks, “How do I interpret Picasso’s painting, “Winter?”. The patron actually needs information on the influence of Japanese art on Picasso’s work. I believe that patrons know what they want or need and it is my job to help them figure out the question that will lead to finding the answer. 17
  • 18. Communication/question negotiation process • Another problem that can occur is due to our mental models/constructs • The mental constructs of patrons may not match those of librarians or vice versa. • Remember the “Eagles” example from the beginning of the term? • Here’s another—a patron of high school age says, “I need a book on “Malcom the Tenth.” – Can you figure out what he really needs? 18
  • 19. Strategies for Reference Questioning • Researchers have identified various clarifying questioning strategies that are used in a typical reference query: – Closed – Open-ended – Neutral Very important: Each type is useful at points in the dialogue. 19
  • 20. Question Strategies Closed Questions involves an attempt by the librarian to match the user to the more familiar parts of the information system. The patron’s response is a “yes or no”. This restricts the freedom of the user’s response. • Examples of this type of questioning are: – Is this for a project? – Do you want American or Canadian authors? – Do you need current or historical information? – Can you use an internet source? • Disadvantage: Have you ever played the game Twenty Questions? 20
  • 21. Question Strategies – Open Questions Open questions are useful at the beginning of a reference interview, as a tool to gain more information from an inquirer. Gives the user more control. • Can be used to: – Find out what a person wants – Get a description of a problem or event – Encourage the person to elaborate – Get clarification – Examples: – Tell me more about topic “X” ... – What else can you tell me about your topic… • Disadvantage: User may need direction to stay focused on task 21
  • 22. Question Strategies – Neutral Questions Neutral questions are a subset of Open Questions, as they require more than one or two word answers but differ in that they do not reveal bias toward a correct or acceptable answer. • Focuses on expanding or narrowing the subject, bibliographic details, or format of material sought • Based on Dervin’s sense-making approach: situation --- gap - -- use • The Librarian learns about the situation, the gaps, and the expected uses by using neutral questioning strategies. • The next slide provides an example. 22
  • 23. Neutral Questions • Situation: – Tell me how this problem/question arose? – What are you trying to do in this situation? • Gap: – What would you like to know about X? – What seems to be missing in your understanding of X? – What are you trying to understand? • Use: – How will you use this information? – How will this help you? What will it help you to do? – If you could have exactly the help you wanted, what would it be? 23
  • 24. Neutral questioning • In sum, neutral questioning is a strategy for controlling the reference interview while giving users the freedom to unfold their needs, stories, wants, in a human way. • Neutral questioning helps to avoid premature diagnosis and allows users to retain control over the description of need. 24
  • 25. Question Strategies • All three types of questions are necessary and appropriate. It is up to the librarian to determine which to use, which is often dictated by the environment or setting. • The following slide presents typical clarifying statements. 25
  • 26. Typical Reference Interview Queries • When is the information needed? • How much time do you have now to spend in finding an answer? • Any specific sources you must use/not use? • What kind of information is needed-- a definition, a history, a news story, etc. • How much/what information do you already have? • How is the information going to be used? • Is “popular” or “technical” information needed? • Do you need general information, or specific information? • How long should the information be? • Are you asking for information for yourself, or for someone else? 26
  • 27. 3. Closure (response) The third part in which you provide your answer requires that you use the same attentive behavior. Some ways in which this can be accomplished: – Verify spelling and other possible factual errors in the original query • I had a patron ask for information on the drug, “lacmital”. The drug is actually called, “lamictal”. • A faculty member needed information on a reading program called, “fast forward”. After a little searching I determined that the correct title was : Fast ForWord. – Identify sources appropriate to the client's need that have the highest probability of containing information relevant to the patron's query – Summarize the query – Explain the search strategy/sequence that you are taking – Cite the source of the answer (According to the Statistical Abstract volume 97, 2008, Table 21 the number of persons in the workforce is ….) 27
  • 28. 4. Follow-up • Closure actually ends with a concluding expression that allows for some feedback and evaluation such as – “Does this answer your question?” – “Is this what you need?” – “Is this what you were looking for?” • Follow up is required if the patron is not satisfied. The librarian may: – Encourage the client to return. – Consult other librarians or experts to find more information. – Refer the patron to other sources/institutions after making sure the other source has required the information. – Set up a research appointment. 28
  • 29. Conclusion: Despite all of this theory and research…. • Sometimes you just have to say, “I’m not clear about what you need. Let’s start again”. • Assume nothing! • Remember the patron and librarian have their own mental models which can lead to a comedy of errors: What the librarian says v. what the client hears.. – Librarian says: Value Line Patron hears: Volume Nine – Librarian says: House plans Patron hears: house plants – Librarian says: Bibliographies Patron hears: biographies – Librarian says: UNIX Patron hears: eunuchs – Librarian says: Euthanasia….Patron hears: 29
  • 30. Youth in Asia? • And for the patron of high school age who needed info on Malcolm the Tenth: • He was Asian and really needed a biography on Malcolm X. • As you work on the IPL you are likely to encounter this kind of situation. 30
  • 31. The end for now… • This week – Discussion about reference interviewing – Begin ipl2 training – Read Assignment 1 • Next week – We will discuss the digital reference environment in greater detail.