Effective Communication for Reference Service Delivery in Academic Libraries

Article excerpt

Introduction

Communication makes the world habitable. Consciously involves sharing ideas, feelings, thoughts, and many other things that humans share. Ojomo (2004) defined communication as the process of sharing ideas, feelings, thoughts and messages with others. Rothwell (2001) sees communication as a transactional process of sharing meaning with others. Kemoni (2004) citing Ojiambo avers that communication involves the giving and receiving of information, signals or messages by talk, gestures and writing. Odini (1999) identifies communication as one of the core competencies that all information professionals should possess.

Interpersonal communication involves sending and receiving messages between two or more people. DeFleur and Dennis (2002) conceptualized interpersonal communication as a process of using language and non-verbal cues to send and receive messages between individuals that are intended to arouse particular kinds of meaning. Rothwell (2004) posits that interpersonal communication is dyadic communication; according to him, it is a transaction that takes place between two people. Tubbs and Moss (2003) see interpersonal communication as encompassing many kinds of relationships from the most casual to the most long-lasting.

The growth of learning today according to Katz (2002) no longer can be termed gradual. He noted that finding specific bits of data among the mass of undifferentiated information is a great challenge and the reference librarian is in the best position to meet this challenge.

Reference librarians are the image makers for the library and the link between the library, library resources, and library patrons. They are the individuals to ask when a patron does not know who to ask, or need to look for specific information and do not know where to begin. The reference librarian interprets information sources to library users and how to explore them.

Objectives of the Study

This study aims to examine the role of communication in effective reference services in academic libraries. Specifically, the study aims to achieve the following:

1) To examine the duties performed by reference librarians

2) To determine the impact of interpersonal communication in reference services.

3) To identify barriers to effective interpersonal communication.

Methodology

Documentary evidences were adopted as the methodology in this paper. Several relevant literature on the role of communication in effective reference services in academic libraries were examined and used as basis for the discussion of the topic.

Duties of the Reference Librarian

Relationships thrive on the maintenance of a good communication link between the parties involved, the reference librarian is expected to be a good communicator who links library users to the resources of their choice.

The essence of reference work is personal service. The primary function of the reference department as observed by Nwalo (2000) among other things is answering reference questions and user education. Katz (2002) also highlighted the following as some of the duties of a reference librarian:

* To promote an end product: the information sought by the user.

* Teaching people how to find information. Such instructions can range from the individual explanation of information sources or creation of guides and appropriate media to formal assistance.

One of the major ways through which these duties or functions can be performed effectively is through interpersonal communication between the reference librarian and the library user.

Reference librarians engage in person-to-person services. They interact with library patrons and interview them to be able to articulate their information needs clearly. They must possess conversational skills which according to Katz (2002) is the ability to talk to all types of people, to find out what they need. …