Observed Reference Interview

Today I observed a shoddy reference interview. Well, not observed in the traditional sense. TV Land has been showing Beaches this weekend and I’ve caught parts of it a couple times. Last night I watched the end (I could not believe that my husband had never seen it before!) and today I watched the middle. Hillary (Barbara Hershey) goes into the library and tells the librarian (or paraprofessional, whatever) that she needs all their information on viral cardiomyopathy. The librarian didn’t even ask any questions! Instead they pulled the old without “speaking she began to type“move I’ve been learning about in 5513. Because Hillary is later shown surrounded by books and learning of her fate, I’m guessing the librarian provided her with the proper information. Apparently in movie land you don’t need a proper reference interview (or they don’t need to show it) in order to the right answer. Unfortunately in real life you do. In reference class last week I had to initiate three reference interviews with the question of my choice. I chose a really vague question so that the librarians would have to ask a few questions in order to get to my real inquiry. To clarify, I asked for information about children when I really wanted to know the symptoms of hay fever in kids. Out of three librarians (two face to face and one virtual) none got to my real query. The most I got to clarify was telling them “health” when they asked “What about children?” It happened in all three instances. I ended up with an appropriate book in one instance only because I looked on the shelf myself after the librarian led me to the area of stacks where parenting books were located. In my chat session I got a book only because the librarian was lucky and happened to suggest this book. I ended up absolutely nothing in the third case. My query was not even difficult; how long would it have taken them to ask me one more question?

There are a couple things that I hope to always remember when I am a librarian:

1. Always conduct a reference interview! Catherine Sheldrick Ross, a pretty reliable authority on reference interviews, says that an interview (one or more questions) should be conducted in every transaction. It saves t the time of the user and library staff because there should be less unnecessary searching and ILLing done.

2. Tell the patron what you are doing. There’s nothing more annoying than being left in the dark about what’s going on. The one good thing I had to say about my reference transaction that yielded nothing was that she told me what was going on. Even though her searching was pretty bad, she told me what she was doing the whole time and I appreciated that. It almost made me say that I was willing to return to her. That bring me to..

3. Always show interest and approachability. Reasons for these are copious and explained quite well in the article I linked to above.

Basically, I aspire to be decent person to those who need help. I think making that my mantra will automatically make my willingness to return factor pretty good.

While I was Googling the articles I linked to in this post, I found this video on YouTube. Definitely watch it because it’s very cute.

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Filed under library, movies, reference

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