Module 2: The Key to the Reference Process

This module will focus specifically on completing the reference interview. Skills and steps needed in the reference interview include:

  • Listening
  • Paraphrasing
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Clarifying
  • Verifying
  • Getting all the needed information (the six pieces of evidence)
  • Following up
  • Ending the interview

Listening – the Most Important Part of the Reference Interview

Listening to a patron without interrupting them and then following up by asking the right questions are necessary skills for a successful reference interview. Interrupting the patron’s train of thought may cause the patron to become unsure or insecure, ending the interview. Without that initial question, it will be impossible to uncover the true information need and provide the best answer.

Keep in mind that there are many reasons why patrons may not state their real information need. Persevere, be creative, and practice the techniques provided in this module. By doing so, you will have a successful reference transaction.

Virtual Reference – General Guidelines

For virtual reference in general:

  • Standard reference service procedures, such as reference interviewing, should prevail.
  • Use effective interpersonal communication and recommended model behaviors
  • Treat online communication, including stored transcripts or records, as private and confidential.
  • Be skilled in online communication, and be aware of the possible pitfalls of conducting a reference interview online
  • Be friendly!
  • Type like you talk, in a conversational manner.
  • Use the patron’s name.
  • Avoid yes/no responses. This could be interpreted as cold and unfriendly, just as in face-to-face reference.
  • Clarify confusing terminology and avoid excessive jargon. Use terminology that is understandable to the patron.
  • Include an explanation of your search process or strategy in your responses when possible.
  • Send non-scripted information in small pieces, not large paragraphs, to help communication and reduce delay time.
  • Try to let the patron know what you are doing approximately every minute — so that the patron does not feel abandoned.
  • If you must be away from the transaction, send something for the patron to review or read until you return.
  • Try to strike a balance between speed and professionalism while adapting to the patron’s comfort level with the software.
  • Use correct spelling, grammar, punctuation & capitalization.
  • Fully cite all resources quoted or used in responses.

Major Point: The reference interview remains the same in both in-person and virtual reference and answers the basic question: what does the patron really want to know?