What Are Information Services? Defining Reference Service in School Libraries
What Are Information Services?
Defining Reference Service in School Libraries
What are information
And what do they have
to do with schools and
a working definition
For the purposes of this class,
we can define information
services as any service intended
to provide information for a
client or user, or assist a client or
user in finding or searching for
Libraries have traditionally
provided reference services
• All the functions performed by a trained
librarian employed in the reference section of a
library to meet the information needs of
patrons (in person, by telephone, or
electronically), including but not limited to
answering substantive questions, instructing
users in the selection and use of appropriate
tools and techniques for finding information,
conducting searches on behalf of the patron,
directing users to the location of library
resources, assisting in the evaluation of
information, referring patrons to resources
outside the library when appropriate, keeping
reference statistics, and participating in the
development of the reference collection.
What Is Reference?
Why Is It Important?
• The goal of reference work is to
meet people’s information needs.
• Reference work includes finding
out what information people need
and using library resources to
provide that information.
Reference work is about people
• those who need information and
those who provide it. Reference
service is providing information to
meet the needs of the individual
library users in your community.
• Module 1 - People
What is the reference process?
The reference process includes the
1. Encouraging the patron to contact the
library when there is an information
2. Finding out what the real information
3. Finding the information that will meet
4. Making sure the patron’s need really
has been met.
What is a reference question?
• A reference question is a question
that involves the knowledge, use,
or instruction in the use of one or
more information sources by a
member of the library staff.
• Library » CPLA Reference & Resource
Center » Frequently Asked Questions »
Then, there’s the reference interview
• In the reference process, knowing how
to get the question is a critical step
toward finding the right answer.
Determining the real question is
accomplished through the reference
interview. The reference interview is a
discussion between you and your
patron. It involves asking the right
questions and listening carefully to the
• Houston Area Library System HALS
Reference123 Module 2..Questions
The Reference Interview
According to Robert Taylor, the
reference interview is
• “one of the most complex acts of
human communication,” for in
this act “one person tries to
describe for another person not
something he knows, but rather
something he does not know.”
• “Question Negotiation and Information Seeking in
Libraries,” College and Research Libraries 29
(May 1968): 180. Quoted in Tibbo, Helen.
“Learning to Love Our Users: A Challenge to the
Profession and a Model for Practice.” 2002.
Online at http://www.ils.unc.edu/tibbo/MAC
Communication with a Purpose
The reference librarian “is involved in
diagnostic and prescriptive activity.”
• “what people ask for [want] is
often not what they really need.
Thus, it is important to have the
diagnostic session so that the client
will be given the right information
and will be successful.”
• Robinson, William C. (2000). “The
Reference Interview.” Course material from
the University of Tennessee—Knoxville
apparently no longer available online
1. The student may not know what to
2. The “average” student may have no
preknowledge of the type of resource(s)
that will answer his or her question.
3. The student’s communication skills
may not be as refined as yours.
4. The student may not know the
terminology (library lingo) used in the
• Riedling, Ann Marlow. “Great Ideas for Improving Reference
Interviews.” Book Report. 19.3 (Nov/Dec2000): 28-29.
5. The student may lack knowledge about
the subject, the assignment, or the usage
policies of the SLMC.
6. The student may misinterpret your
nonverbal or verbal cues.
7. The student may be fearful of you or
frustrated about the question being
8. Communications may become
miscommunications when a student is
unable to verbalize his or her information
• Riedling, “Great Ideas.”
• Patron asks for information on
“career.” Turned out he meant
• After showing the patron several book
about Buddhism, I realized that was
not what he meant when he asked for
information on Nirvana.
• the Hawaiian volcano, Killer Whale
• Miscommunications in Libraries. Now an
• See also Weird library reference questions
and Funny Requests from patrons
Deep Reference Question
• Yes, an actual question:
If I ate only Cheetos, would I turn
• See all the posts labeled “Reference” made by
The Liberry aka Amy or Marian The at
Types of problems
Reference librarians are used to dealing with
situations like these:
• Homophones, a word the librarian interprets
with one meaning while the user means the other:
e.g., Wales/Whales; China/china.
• User misunderstands and, in turn, conveys this
misunderstanding to the librarian: i.e., “I need
the book Catch Her in the Eye” (Catcher in the
• User understands the concept but does not use
the correct terms: i.e., I need the book, “Battle
of the Planets” - (War of the Worlds)
• Gale/ALISE Bibliographic Instruction Support
Program. Instructional Module 2: Importance of the
Reference Interview . No longer available online.
“Oranges and Peaches”:
A Classic Article
Understanding Communication Accidents in the
• In the reference transaction, the librarian
must have a clear, complete understanding
of the user’s information need before a
satisfactory answer can be given. Often the
question must be negotiated through a
reference interview, where the librarian will
attempt to clarify, expand, and perhaps
repair the query as it is initially presented
by the user.
Structure of the Interview
ORE Skills and steps in the reference
• Asking open questions
• Getting all the needed information (the
6 pieces of evidence)
• Following up
• Ending the interview
• Reference Interview Module 2
What are neutral questions?
• “Neutral questions are open in form,
avoid premature diagnosis of the
problem, and structure the interview
along dimensions universally important
to users -- their gaps, their situations,
the bridges they wish to construct, and
the outcomes they wish to achieve.”
• Dervin, B., & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral
questioning: A new approach to the reference
interview. RQ, 25 (4): 506-513. Abstract online at
Uses of Neutral Questions
Used to discover the user’s
motivation and objectives without
asking “why” questions
• What would you like to know about X?
• How do you plan to use this information?
• How would this information help you?
• Freund, L. “Question Negotiation in
Online Searching.” Powerpoint
presentation. Online at
What do you want to end up with at the
conclusion of the interview?
• Type and Amount
• The Basic Question
• 6 Pieces of Evidence. Houston Area Library System
Reference Training Module 2. Online at
Ending the Interview
• Check if the question has been or
can be answered with the material
• Check to see if the person is
satisfied at the moment.
• Expressly offer additional help as
• Withdraw cordially.
• “The Reference Interview: A Common-Sense Review.”
Available online at
Reference in the School Library
Types of interviews
• Ready reference interviews
• Include questions that can be answered
with short factual information
• Research project interviews
• Involve in-depth coverage of a topic,
often requiring the use of multiple
• Readers’ advisory interviews
• Recommending good leisure reading
• Ann Riedling, Reference Skills for the School
Library Media Specialist, 2nd ed.
• Part of the joy of the reference
interview is its tangible, tactile
nature and the slow buildup as
you gather enough information
to begin the search process. You
listen, question, and listen
again; you pick up cues from
gestures and facial expressions.
• Schneider, Karen G. “Internet Librarian: In Your
Dreams: A Y2K Fantasy.” American Libraries
December 1999. Online at
What is Digital Reference?
• Digital reference services, also
called “Ask-An-Expert” (or
“AskA”) services, are Internet-
based question and answer services
that connect users [frequently
members of the K-12 education
community] with individuals who
possess specialized subject or skill
What about virtual reference?
Digital (or Virtual) Reference in
Regardless of how the service is
provided, virtually or in person, does it
have to be a certified school librarian
who provides the service?
• Are School Librarians Expendable?
• “School librarians are on the chopping block
as states and cities seek to cut their education
budgets. . . . Do superintendents and
principals see librarians as more expendable
than other school employees? If so, why?”
• New York Times
Updated June 27, 2011 03:46 PM
A recent resolution
ALA Resolution that School Libraries and
Librarians are Critical to Educational Success
• Whereas school librarians help students acquire
unique skills not taught in the classroom and
information and technology skills essential for
students in the 21st century;
• Whereas there has been research conducted in
22 states and a Canadian Province that
provides significant evidence indicating the
value added to student’s academic development
by the presence of a strong school library
program led by a credentialed librarian;
More from the resolution
• Whereas the most universal finding is that the
presence of full-time, credentialed school
librarians and appropriate support staff who
implement a quality, school integrated program
of library services is directly related to these
student educational gains;
• Whereas quality school library programs
staffed by credential school librarians prepare
students to have the 21st Century skills they
need to succeed in college and careers. They are
particularly critical to help close the
achievement gap of students who come from
economically disadvantage backgrounds.
• ALA Resolution that School Libraries and Librarians are
Critical to Educational Success