Tuesday, 26 August 2008

How to cope with Problems of Giving Reference?

Librarians in practice know the problems with giving reference all to well:

  • a) How to find out what the intention of the customer is?

  • b) What is good reference?

  • c) How to find out whether the reference interview was successful?

  • d)How to meausure it?

To get the customer participating in bettering the library service, the library has to set up a "Service level agreement" as a basis for collaboration with the customer. (I think I don't have to underline that collaboration with the customer is nessecary.)

A good overview about what has to be kept in mind regarding the reference interview is given here. Willen Brown gives examples of reference interviews. These examples show the problems with giving reference very clearly. The "Reference and User Services Association" (RUSA) has set up guidelines for giving reference. The reference interview consists of five stages:
1. Approachability
2. Interest
3. Listening/ Inquiring
4. Searching
5. Follow up

Listening and inquiring (only ask open questions!) are essential skills of the reference librarian. Under "Approachability" I would put the saying "expect the unexpected". The real difficulty is to find out what the customer really wants. Often there is standing behand the question a far different intention. Not to mention that customers mostly are not willing to ask the librarian for they don't want to show that they can't find the information by themselves, thast there is an information gap.
I wonder if hypnosis would work to find out the customers intention ;-)

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