July 31, 2004

How important is the reference interview?

This is a fascinating article for any working on a library public service desk and interested in providing good reference. Has the Internet Changed Anything in Reference? The Library Visit Study, Phase 2 by Catherine Sheldrick Ross and Kirsti Nilsen. Published in Reference & User Services Quarterly (RUSQ) (previously RQ) and the 2002 Reference Services Press Award winner.

Using data from 2000, this study concludes library staff will be using the Internet more and more for reference questions but

Users still need help in formulating their questions, identifying what they need to know, considering alternative search terms, and evaluating retrieved hits.

This research supports earlier studies that show that successful interactions at the reference desk happen only when effective reference interviews are conducted. Necessary elements include clarification of the question, recognition of what the patron already has searched, analysis of the question, identification of potential resources, and consistent use of follow-up questions. Although the Internet undoubtedly will become increasingly important as a reference resource, there is still a large role for the information professional as intermediary. The Internet is not the store next door.

Check out "Reference Interview Skills" workshop materials from the Infopeople Project's Past Workshop Materials section.

Posted by leita at July 31, 2004 07:39 AM to category Librarianship