A reference interview is a conversation between you and the library user. Like any conversation, the key to a good reference interview lies in understanding what the person is saying. Imagine a friend who wants to tell you about her day, but she isn't sure how much she should tell you. After all, she doesn't want to bore you. Just as you would have to coax the information out of your friend, you sometimes have to do that with library users. There are a number of reasons for this.
There are 7 Steps to conducting a proper Reference Interview:
It is important that you show the patron that you are interested and focused on what they are asking you. If you appear bored, or uninterested, it may come off as rude or intimidating and patrons will decide to forgo asking any questions. Some ways to show the patron that you are interested are to:
Listening is how you discover the patrons information needs. Often, they may not know how to articulate what it is that they need, so it is up to you to be a good listener to determine their true information inquiry.
- Do NOT interrupt the patron. Wait until they have finished explaining their information need.
- Paraphrase what the patron has asked in order to demonstrate that you were listening and understand what they are asking you. (repeat back what the patron said in their own words without adding any thoughts or questions of your own. Paraphrasing can help with a patron who keeps repeating their request over and over.)
It is important that the patron understands that you are working on their request. Keep them informed on the progress of their reference question.
Always give the patron a clear answer, even if you are referring them to someone or somewhere else.
After providing an answer be sure to follow-up with the patron to determine if all of their information needs have been met.