Apr 1, 2021
If you have spent any amount of
time answering questions from patrons, you know some of this
already. They often do not know how to ask for exactly what they
need, and you have to wade through it all to figure out how to help
everyone get what they need. As with so many other things you can
do in libraries, there is a procedure developed just for
When people think about libraries, they envision a nice older lady sitting behind a desk with some quiet, well-behaved people lining up to ask clever, interesting questions.
You do not need to have been working in a library too long to see a few flaws in this vision! Sure, a lot of library people are nice older females. And that is about where it ends. Libraries today do not focus on being quiet. We have some well-behaved patrons.
But questions tend to be the challenging part. Not always in answering them - we have skills in doing Reference work that allows librarians to to find all kinds of great things. Figuring out how to interpret questions, and to get the best information is one of the best skills we have in our skills toolbox.
A complete reference interview will have seven steps. Sometimes, with a quick question, you can condense these. But it’s still a good idea to think about each of them, just to be sure you have done everything necessary to help your patron.