Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Reference Interview through Time and Space

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Reference Interview through Time and Space

Article excerpt

"Good afternoon, this is a reference librarian. May I help you?" Variations on this greeting have been uttered by librarians for over a century as the first step in the reference interview. And over that century, thousands upon thousands of people have been able to find the information they need with the assistance of the reference librarian, children's services librarian, reader's advisory librarian, or other user services librarian.

During that century, the modes of access to an information professional have increased in number and diverged into many communication channels. The amount of information available has multiplied thousands-fold. But when one looks at the fundamentals, some basic questions arise. The profession must ask itself what has changed in the interaction beyond the communication media. Are the patrons who are asking questions in 2002 different in kind or character from the ones who were asking questions in 1952? Have the goals of the reference interview changed since 1932? Is the reference interview still necessary?

For some reference librarians, doing reference work without a properly conducted interview would be similar to trying to drink tea without a cup. One imagines that it might be possible but feels no desire to put the notion to a test. For other reference librarians, reference on the fly--that is, responding to the question as posed--is as natural as Rollerblading; a skill that one spends some time learning but which then allows you to be faster and more responsive. …

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