Verbal and non-verbal behaviors let patrons know you want to help.
Reference service is an ongoing process. Determining real information needs requires a skillful reference interview. A successful interview includes paraphrasing, asking open questions, clarifying, and verifying to gather the 6 pieces of evidence that determine what the patron really wants to know. The end of the interview is a follow-up question to be sure the correct information was found.
Welcoming Behaviors and Approachability
The questioning techniques of the reference interview are the right thing to say, but what you DO while you're saying it can make a big difference! Patrons are often reluctant to ask questions. Your job is to encourage questions by using welcoming behaviors and by being approachable. Following are some behaviors for encouraging questions by showing your patrons respect and courtesy.
Remote but Approachable
As with face-to-face reference, approachability is important in remote reference. The design of library virtual reference interfaces (screens) should encourage patrons to use the services. Approachability is expressed with welcoming language and a clutter-free visual design. A clear statement of the scope of the service, what is expected of those using it, and a statement of those for whom the service is intended are necessary. The Ohio KnowItNow 24/7 virtual reference service interface, as an example of welcoming language, offers "to meet your information needs whenever you need it, wherever you are!"
Guidelines recommend that you "provide prominent, jargon-free links to all forms of reference services from the home page of the library's Web site, and throughout the site wherever research assistance may be sought out. ...Make reference services easy to find and convenient."
Major Point: Being approachable encourages questions.
Many of the ORE Module pages will ask you to work with the reference collection and with your local staff. Sometimes the best reference resources are the "human resources." Ask!
Write down the answers to the exercise questions in this module, and keep them to review with your supervisor at the end of the module.
Provide a welcoming reference area, allow privacy, eliminate physical barriers and distracting noises, and reduce desk clutter to encourage patrons to approach and ask a question.
A library patron who collects antiques wanted to verify the value of a
chair that he was interested in buying from an antique shop in the British Isles. He
brought in titles of two books that he wanted the library to interlibrary loan. Mary Ann
Clymer, Head of Reference at the Avon Lake Public Library, verified titles on WorldCat and
forwarded the requests to our Interlibrary Loan Librarian.
Home | Purpose | Instructions
| Contact OLC | Contact