Verbal and non-verbal behaviors let patrons know you are available to help.
Your job is to encourage questions by being approachable and using welcoming behaviors.
Below are examples of verbal and non-verbal behaviors for encouraging questions by showing respect and courtesy to your patron:
- Smile and greet your patrons as they enter the library
- Use a relaxed, upbeat tone of voice
- When on the telephone, ensure your voice projects interest
- Maintain natural eye contact (but also be aware of cultural and social sensitivities)
- Be at a patron’s eye level if you can
- Keep a relaxed, open posture
- Have an interested facial expression
- Wear your name tag
- Maintain patron privacy
- Eliminate physical barriers
- Lower noise levels behind the desk
Approachability in Virtual Reference
Approachability is also very important in a virtual setting. Instead of focusing on facial expression and body language, virtual approachability is based around design and language choices. To create an approachable digital reference platform:
- Include a place for or link to the virtual reference platform on the homepage of the library’s website
- Make sure virtual reference interfaces are welcoming and encouraging by providing a clutter-free visual design.
- Provide a clear statement of scope for the service, including
- What is expected of those using it
- What type of information is provided
- Who the service is intended for
Major Point: Being approachable encourages questions.
Rove around your library.
- Can you easily identify a staff member?
- Is patron privacy respected?
- Are there physical barriers to access?
- Are noise levels an issue?
If you’ve worked at the library for some time, it may be difficult for you to “think like a patron.” Pretend that you’ve never been in the library before when evaluating approachability. If you find problems, think about what you can do individually to overcome them, e.g., move to a quieter spot when talking to a patron or standing in a way that is respectful to patrons and their privacy.