The Reference Interview
- an introduction
Information Sources and Services
Clarion University of PA
Fall 2002, Southpointe Center

The Ill-Formed Query
Users ask for something very broad and general
Users ask for something specific but there’s a mismatch
Users aren’t exactly sure how the library system works
(Ross, Nilsen and Dewdney, p. 22-25)

The Ill-Formed Query
Keywords in the user’s question are ambiguous
User’s question involves a reconstruction
User’s question contains an error or misconception
(Ross, Nilsen and Dewdney, p. 22-25)

The intangibles

Nonverbal Skills
Eye contact
Gestures (smiles, nods)
Facial expression and tone of voice

Verbal Skills
Remembering (what the patron tells you)
Avoiding premature diagnosis
Reflecting feelings verbally
Restating or paraphrasing content
Move from a system-based perspective to a user-based perspective

Verbal Skills
Using encouragers
Asking open questions
Neutral questions or sense-making questions
Giving opinions and suggestions

Six Common Causes of Communication Accidents
Not acknowledging the user
Not listening
Playing 20 questions
Interrupting at inappropriate times
Making assumptions
Not following up
(Ross, Nilsen and Dewdney, p. 15-16)

Reference Interview Classics
Dervin, Brenda and Patricia Dewdney.  1986.  “Neutral Questioning:  A New Approach to the Reference Interview.”  RQ 25, no. 4 (summer):  506-13.
Dewdney, Patricia and Catherine Sheldrick Ross.  1994.  “Flying a Light Aircraft:  Reference Evaluation from a User’s Viewpoint.”  RQ 34, no. 2 (winter): 217-30.
Gross, Melissa.  1995.  “The Imposed Query.”  RQ 35, no. 2 (winter):  236-43.

Recent Books
Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Kirsti Nilson and Patricia Dewdney.  2002.  Conducting the Reference Interview.  New York:  Neal-Schuman.
Radford, Marie L.  1999.  The Reference Encounter:  Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library.  Chicago:  Association of College and Research Libraries.
Jennerich, Elaine Z. and Edward J. Jennerich.  1997.  The Reference Interview as a Creative Art.  2nd ed.  Littleton, CO:  Libraries Unlimited.