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The reference interview answers the basic question: what does the patron really want to know? Listen to the patron and look for non-verbal cues. Shadowing experienced librarians can help you develop your own techniques. It takes time and a lot of practice to perfect a reference interview technique that works for you.
Questions to Consider in a Reference Interview
The following questions are those you can use to ask the patron in order to receive more information about their inquiry:
Could you tell me what you're working on?
What is it you want to know about __________?
What would you like to know about this topic?
What have you already found (or where have you already looked for information)?
What kind of information on __________ are you looking for?
What do you mean by __________?
What do you already know about __________?
Is there something specific about __________ that you are looking for?
I'm not familiar with __________. Can you explain it to me?
Where have you checked for information so far?
So in other words, what you'd like to find is __________, right?
The following questions are those you can ask yourself in order to find the best resources for your patron:
Where could I find more information about this topic in addition to the usual resources we access?
If the student's request is too broad or too narrow, can I negotiate in order to find them better resources?
Am I very clear on what the user wants and what they are searching for?
Am I really focusing on the user and their needs right now?
The following questions are commons ones that you may experience while working the Reference Desk:
I need an article on __________.
I need to find an article in a __________ journal.
I need to find a book on __________.
Where is this book?
Does the library have my textbook? (Please note: We do not MelCat or ILL textbooks.)
I need a specialized source on __________.
I need to find a reserve item.
I need help with APA / MLA citation.
I am writing a pro / con paper and I need information on __________.
I need information on __________, limited to Michigan.
Does the library have a video (or other format) on __________?
What printer does my printout go to?
Which computers have Word / PowerPoint?
I'm trying to bring up a document in my Desire2Learn (D2L) course and I can't open it.
How do I view my printing account balance?
How do I register for a class?
Skills & Steps
Asking open questions
Getting all the needed information
Ending the interview