For those of you who are already librarians and have been doing reference for a super long time, a lot of this may not seem especially innovative, and I’d welcome your ideas on things that you’ve found especially useful in your transactions either online or at the physical desk.
Are we more interested in physical, virtual?
If you don’t put them at ease, they aren’t going to want to talk to you. They will leave with unmet information needs, and possibly never come back. I think this is one of the most important things.
Be human, be thoughtful. This means different things online and in person.However, the issue is larger. Even in cases where the patron doesn’t find what he/she wanted, there are a number of things that will influence their willingness and likelihood to return to the same librarian for additional help. What do you think those things are? (Joan Durrance)
As in this study above, Marie Radford found that patrons found approachability, level of interest, and friendliness to be as important as if not more important than answer accuracy.What does this imply? That people are ready to assume that the problem was inherent in their question, rather than in the assistance of the friendly, interested librarian.
So, how does one appear welcoming, and maintain that perception?Look welcoming from a distance. Look around, no reading, no headphones.Speak, right away. Always say hello, smile, make eye contact. For VR, say hello within 30 seconds. Use smileys. Develop your “microskills”—online and in personOffer positive feedback—what have they done well? Affirm that they are wise and amazing for consulting you for assistance, and for whatever they’ve already tried. Even asking is good. Did they start early? Did they already try searching? Be encouraging. Listen carefully, do not interruptAlways invite them to follow upThese things have been identified as “microskills” by a counseling professor in the 60s. Super quick PEST analysis—what’s going on?
The reference interview: a subtle art—happens quickly. The trick, of course, is to ask enough questions that you don’t waste anyone’s time without seeming like you’re part of the inquisitorial squad. The 55% rule—when users ask reference questions they get accurate answers 55% of the time. Been repeated many times (Peter Herndon and Charles McClure, 1986, 1987.)So, to interview or not to interview—every time? Almost every time?Pull chart from book page 21See rabbit thing on page 27
Everyone has had questions like this. Why do questions so often get phrased this way?People strip down their questions to tiny things for many reasons. They’re confused They have a different service model in mindThey’re looking to be considerateThey don’t want to bore us with their questions or their life stories. They think we won’t be able to find what they need more specificallySo, it’s our job to put people at ease, and help them to feel as though we do care about their research needs. They strip away the context, so we have to get it back, if we can. So, what if I say—the science section is over there, and point? Is that a good thing?So, what can I do?Be aware of the various ways in which patrons phrase their questions.Encourage them to say more, through open questions, and tell them why you want to know.I always say—”Sure, I can tell you where the science section is, but there are a lot of books there--you looking for something more specific, like articles or books on a particular compound?”Don’t’ make assumptions (but don’t beat yourself up for misunderstandings)Instantly rephrase or confirm the question.
Often we like to ask—have you already tried X? We also need to be careful with that, because it can imply that someone has taken the wrong steps in asking you. Your lead-in will do a lot to make your question seem friendly.Instead of making it platform based (a lot of people are confused) ask them what they’ve tried—unless they explicitly say “I have an assignment where I need 5 book on subject X.”
Sometimes we discover that a topic or item isn’t available or isn’t reasonable. It’s very important that we consider carefully how to suggest change. -Explain the problem—we just don’t collect in that area, there’s not much published on that yet,-Suggest some alternatives—either geographically (go to this place, I’ll call ahead) or topically, then let them guide the new direction.
So, how can we be sure we’re teaching them how to do things without taking all day? Think aloud, don’t just clickShow AND tell or Let them driveWatch the jargonVon Scoy and Oakleaf say “share the secret knowledge”Offer to write things down. Let them know that it’s several steps, if it is. I recall feeling stupid for not being able to remember the 16 clicks a librarian showed me once, so I never wanted to go back.
Know how to set boundaries without guilt tripping people. I like to explain WHY I can’t do things for people, instead of just saying no—that way they know you’ve thought about their needs. Offer an alternativeOverall, never give dead ended answers.
Create some models—hae some great transactions picked out—or have some scripts. You don’t have to use them, but stay familiar with them—these can be especially useful for those cases where you find out that the request is outside your abilities. That way you’ve already thought about how to kindly divert unreasonable or unfillable requests.Try to integrate a particular skill each day or for one hour.
Tips for the real world reference transaction
Tips for the Real World Reference Transaction<br />Sarah Steiner<br />April 16, 2011<br />Atlanta Emerging Librarians Meeting<br />http://referencetransactions.weebly.com<br />
Overview<br /> Today we’ll talk about…<br />Putting people at ease<br />Getting to the question<br />Suggesting changes<br />Instructing surreptitiously<br />Assessing reference<br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyhay/239756376<br />
What are Your Concerns?<br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_hmm/2895974037<br />
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mseckington/5585670136<br />Putting People at Ease<br />
“Customers with problems seek… attentive listeners to whom to tell their stories, who can imagine themselves similarly situated; who not only can understand the problems, but will feel connected to them” (Gorry & Westbrook, 127).<br />