The Art of the Reference Interview An Introduction by Raina Bloom, Quasi-Librarian .
Our Problem ~ A patron’s first attempt to express his/her need is often incomplete, vague, tentative, and/or unclear, even when it seems that they’re being clear . ~ A classic example… ~ Katz and Taylor ~ Therefore, we must always assume that there is always more to the patron’s information need than is apparent - and ~ We must clearly understand this need before we are able to help him/her.
Why, Why, Why?! ~ Conventions of normal conversation ~ Sensitive topic (medical, legal, or any information that the patron perceives as embarrassing) ~ The patron is just beginning his/her research and has not formed a question. ~ Fear of appearing ill-informed ~ Fear of librarians/libraries ~ You are scary .
Why, Why, Why?! (Part Two) ~ Lack of knowledge about the library : ~ Patrons don’t know that you’re there to help them. ~ Libraries are easy, right? ~ Questions revolve around broad subjects because patrons “know” that libraries are organized around broad subjects. ~ Patrons don’t understand the size of the collection. ~ Patrons lack the vocabulary to ask the correct question. ~ Patrons believe that suggesting a source = being helpful.
Step One: The First Thirty Seconds P lace is right A vailable and listening C ontact has been made T opic (in general) understood
Step Two: Determining Need ~ Open vs. closed questions ~ Sense-making questions ~ Avoid premature diagnosis ~ Reiterate
Step Three: Providing an Answer ~ Inclusion ~ a collaborative process ~ Bibliographic Instruction (BI) ~ the teachable moment ~ Follow-up/Closure
~ These skills translate: ~ telephone ~ email ~ IM reference ~ Remember to be conscious of: ~ language barriers ~ special needs ~ cultural differences Special Considerations
Six Common Problems 1. Thinking too broadly 2. The mismatch 3. System confusion 4. Ambiguity in vocabulary/pronunciation/hearing 5. Incorrect reconstruction of details 6. Errors or misconceptions
Sources Consulted Atlas, Michel C. (2005). “Library Anxiety in the Electronic Era, or Why Won’t Anybody Talk to Me Anymore?” Reference and User Services Quarterly . vol. 44, no. 4, p. 314-319. Jiao, Qun G. and Onwuegnuzie, Anthony J. (1997). “Antecedents of Library Anxiety.” Library Quarterly . vol. 67, no. 4. p372-389. Murphy, Sarah Anne. (2005). “The Reference Narrative.” Reference and User Services Quarterly . vol. 44, no. 3, p. 247-52. Ross, Catherine Sheldrick; Nilsen, Kirsti; and Dewdney, Patricia. (2002). Conducting the Reference Interview . New York, London: Neal- Schuman Publishers, Inc. Whisner, Mary. (2002). “Teaching the Art of the Reference Interview.” Law Library Journal . vol. 94, no. 1, p. 161-166.