Reference interview

Reference interview

A reference interview is a structured conversation between a librarian and a library user, usually at a reference desk, in which the librarian responds to the user's initial explanation of his or her information need by first attempting to clarify that need and then by directing the user to appropriate information resources.


Bopp & Smith defines the reference interview as the "conversation between a member of the library reference staff and a library user for the purpose of clarifying the user’s needs and aiding the user in meeting those needs".ref|boppsmith According to ODLIS, the reference interview is "the interpersonal communication that occurs between a reference librarian and a library user to determine the person's specific information need(s), which may turn out to be different from the reference question as initially posed...A reference interview may occur in person, by telephone, or electronically (usually via e-mail) at the request of the user, but a well-trained reference librarian will sometimes initiate communication if a hesitant user appears to need assistance".ref|odlis

A reference interview is composed of two segments:

#An initial segment in which the librarian encourages the user to fully discuss the request.
#A final segment in which the librarian asks questions to relate the request to the materials available in the library

A reference interview is structured (ideally) according to the following series of steps. First the library user states a question or describes a problem. The librarian then clarifies the user's information need, sometimes leading him or her back from a request for a specific resource (which may not be the best one for the problem at hand) to the actual information need as it manifests in the library user's life. Following that, the librarian suggests information resources that address the user's information need, explaining the nature and scope of information they contain and soliciting feedback. The reference interview closes when the librarian has provided the appropriate information or a referral to an outside resource where it can be found, and the user confirms that he or she has received the information needed.

Parts of a reference interview

#Gathering information with open questions
#Confirming the exact question
#Giving the answer
#Following up

See also

*Reference scenarios
* [ Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers]


*Note|boppsmithBopp, Richard E. and Smith, Linda C. "Reference and Information Services: An Introduction", Second Edition. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1995. p. 37.
*Note|odlis [ ODLIS - Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science] . Edited by Joan M. Reitz.

Further reading

* [ Ohio Reference Excellence]
*Ranasinghe, W.M.T.D. [ Reference Interview] in LISWiki

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