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Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) guidelines for the reference interview
1. Approachability - Don't be engrossed in the computer and slouched over. Make eye contact and be generally welcoming and energized.
2. Interest - Indicate interest. Your interest may encourage the patron to provide additional and helpful information. This will also buy you some time to think!
3. Listening/Inquiry - Ask the patron clarifying questions and listen to their responses. Determine the patron's needs. What is their real question?
4. Searching - Finally! This can be a time to educate the patron on how to use our catalog and find appropriate databases.
5. Follow-up - Tell the patron how they can get additional help once they start researching on their own.
Reference Interview Step x Step
Narrow your Research Question with the 5 Ws
- Paraphrase = interchangeable response
- Empathy = understanding not pity
- Summary & Clarification = sincerity vs. speculation
- Questions allowing for open-ended responses
- Confrontation & Interpretation = negotiate about meaning
- Nonjudgmental Attitude = neutral
- Knowing Limits - Recognize complexity
Tips for Difficult Questions
Be skeptical of the information the patron presents
- It's possible titles, dates, or author names provides are not 100% correct
Try different search terms
- Work with the patron to brainstorm different search terms. Try to identify the controlled vocabulary related to the topic
Try a different catalog or database
- Where else might you find resources on this topic? Is there a subject specific database?
Not sure if the patron is getting the help they need? Refer them to a librarian.
- ...I feel like we're hitting some roadblocks. Can I schedule you to meet with a librarian?
- ...I'm a _________ major and not very familiar with your topic. I can show you a few resources, but I'd like to arrange for you to meet with a librarian.
Clarifying the Patrons Needs