Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reference Interview - my style!

It usually starts out with me saying "Hi, how can I help you?" to a patron that's either standing/walking around awkwardly, or someone who's just come up to my desk.

When they tell me what they're looking for, let's say, in this instance, they're looking for books on psychology.

I ask if it's for homework or just for personal reading as I search to keep the conversation going.  I also repeat their request at least once, sometimes several times.  Not only to make sure I heard them right and that they requested it right, but also to keep it in my mind.

As we make small talk, I'm searching the catalog for books that will work for them.  I write down the call number and author, with the title underneath.  Between each book, I draw a line to differentiate the different entries.

From there, I hand them the paper, tell them about where the book is located and then ask if they need anything else.

If they don't, they go about their merry business, sometimes coming back up (maybe 1/4 of the time) when they can't find it.  Usually, it's on the shelf where it's supposed to be.  Sometimes, it's just a little off.  Sometimes, it's not there at all.  Either another patron has it, it's on a cart somewhere or it's just plain missing.

In those cases, I ask the patron if they'd like me to order it.  If they brush it off like it's a big step, I laugh and say it's no problem.  Usually, maybe 8/10 times, they'll have me order it for them.

If they weren't done when I asked if they needed something else, rinse and repeat.

Sometimes, I end up ordering everything from another library.  Either through our Consortium, or through MeL (the Michigan Electronic Library).  While MeL is an extra step, since I have to do another search, and if I find the book, put the patron's name and library card into the website, it's no problem.  I've done it (probably) hundreds of times for myself, and to do it for another patron is no problem.

If no library has it, I ask if they'd like me to request to purchase it.  I explain that the request doesn't mean that it will be purchased, since it's up to someone else, but if it is purchased, we can reserve it for them.

Some of the more popular stuff, like the next season of Downton Abbey, or the new Stephen King, will be purchased but it's too early to order it.  I keep the forms for the things I'm requested to purchase, order them when I can, and reserve them when they're ordered.

Overall, I make sure my reference interview has the main steps (from Wikipedia, but also what I learned during my MLIS):

  1. Welcoming
  2. Gathering general information from the user and getting an overview of the problem
  3. Confirming the exact question
  4. Intervention, such as giving information, advice or instructions
  5. Finishing, including feedback and summary

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