Specific behaviors and actions improve reference service success
Model Reference Behaviors — A Checklist
In addition to approachability, working with the checklist of model behaviors, making patrons comfortable, and using successful reference interview skills will ensure peak effectiveness when working with a reference patron. Consistently followed, these powerful techniques can have a much greater impact on the success of reference than the size of the collection or the number of years of experience and education of the staff.
Reference Behaviors Checklist
- Make eye contact
- Give a friendly greeting
- Make natural eye contact
- Speak in a relaxed tone
- Go with the patron
- Maintain eye contact
- Make attentive comments
- Give patron full attention
- Do not interrupt
- Ask open-ended questions
- Try to find the answer
- Search other sources
- Keep patrons informed
- Offer referrals
- Speak clearly
- Check if the answer is understood
- Cite sources
- Ask “does this completely answer your question?”
- Ask other follow-up questions
- Additional Virtual Reference — Specific Behaviors
- Be friendly
- Include an explanation of your search process or strategy in your response
- Send non-scripted information in small pieces to help communication and reduce delay time
- Try to let the patron know what you are doing approximately every minute, which ensures 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 when adapting to the patron’s comfort level with the software
- Use correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization
- Fully cite all sources quoted or used in responses
- Type like you talk — conversationally
- Use the patron’s name if they have provided it.
- Avoid yes/no responses. These can be interpreted as cold and unfriendly.
- Clarify confusing terminology and avoid excessive jargon.
- Print the Model Reference Behaviors Checklist if you haven’t already done so.
- For a period of one week, monitor your behavior while working with patrons. Work through the Model Behaviors Checklist.
- Which behaviors are already part of your routine?
- Which behaviors do you need to incorporate into your interactions with patrons?
- Record the spoken questions or instructions used when working with the patron.
- Discuss your results with your supervisor.
It’s helpful to observe other staff members who are successfully working with patrons and learn from them.