Module 3: Approachability

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.

  1. Can you easily identify a staff member?
  2. Is patron privacy respected?
  3. Are there physical barriers to access?
  4. 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.