Module 4: Recap

What Have You Learned?

Search Strategies

  • Get the real question through a good reference interview, then search for answers! Break down complex questions into manageable parts. Look for answers in resources in many formats. Consider all possible index terms. Consider asking experts.
  • Major Point: Get the patron’s real question first, then use a search strategy that will get you to the most appropriate resources.

Patron’s Source

  • All materials in your library are potential reference sources, but the best place to start may be with the patron’s original source.
  • Major Point: Discovering the patron’s source at the beginning of your search makes the whole process easier.

Subject and Terms

  • To develop a successful strategy for finding the best resources, you must know the subject headings and terms to look under in the library catalog, in the index of the reference resource, or in online sources.
  • Major Point: Successful search strategies require knowledge of subject terms used in library catalogs and resources.


  • Indexes help you locate other resources or locate topics within a resource. Books such as encyclopedias have indexes, there are indexes to magazine articles (or poetry, plays, short stories), and the online catalog is an index to the library’s collection. Reliable sites that review and categorize helpful websites help you locate appropriate sites.
  • Major Point: Indexes are finding tools that help you find whole works, parts within works, topics within an individual work, or quality websites.

Look It Up

  • Do not give opinions even when you think you know. Always look up the answers and cite your sources. Use appropriate search engines, and more than one if necessary. Citing the source, print or Web, lets patrons determine for themselves the accuracy and currency of the information.
  • Major Point: Always look it up, even when you think you know! On the Web, look it up with the most appropriate search engines, and cite sources for print or Web.


  • Your search is not complete until you can give the patron the most current and accurate information.
  • Major Point: To provide accurate information: verify the question; use accurate and current sources; and relay the information carefully.

Asking Experts and Referral

  • Your job is to meet the patron’s information need in whatever way works best. The best search strategy may be to ask experts in your library or community.
  • Your search should consider that patrons often have needs that require the services of groups or agencies, for social or health problems as an example. Your library may have a list, directory, or database of these agencies to be used for Information and Referral.
  • Major Point: Patrons often have needs that books and websites alone will not meet. They need the services of special groups or agencies. It is often more efficient and productive to ask yourself who knows the answer rather than what books or sites contain the answer.

Inform Patron

  • The reference interview does not end when the search begins. Keep the patron informed throughout the search. Continue asking questions and end with a follow-up question that lets you know the patron is completely satisfied.
  • Major Point: Continue the reference interview as you search, keep the patron informed of your progress, and be sure the patron understands the information.

Keeping Track

  • Keep track while working on complicated searches in case you are interrupted or the question needs to be referred later, or if others in your library will be working on the question. Keep track of the number of transactions, according to your library’s practice.
  • Major Point: Keeping track of your search helps others who may work on the search and helps in planning future services. Questions kept with virtual technology may be used to build a database or create FAQs.

Get the patron’s real question first, then search for answers. Know your library’s resources, the resources available in other libraries, and when to refer. Keep the patron informed.

End of Module 4

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