Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Librarian Resources

The Reference Interview

The Reference Interview Defined

  • The reference interview is the process that determines the information needs of the customer.
  • The aim of the interview is to translate the patron’s questions into one that can be answered with the library’s resources

Purpose

  • Allows staff to match the customer’s question to a relevant and useful source of information.
  • The aim of the interview is to answer the patron’s questions using the library’s resources.

Guide To A Successful Reference Interview
1. Approachability

  • Pay attention to both your own and the customer’s body language.
  • Acknowledge and greet the customer as they approach the desk.
  • Ensure the customer has your full attention.

2. Interest

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Find a confidential location for the customer to ask a question
  • Restate and rephrase the question
  • Speak in a relaxed tone
  • Make the customer feel comfortable
  • Nod your head when the customer starts to ask questions

3. Listening/Inquiring

  • Do not interrupt
  • Ask clarifying questions
  • Let the customer express their needs in their own words
  • Ask open-ended questions to probe about their information needs 
    Tell me more about the sources of information you already consulted?  
    Why do you need the information?       
    How will you use the information?
  • Remember, WORF Welcoming, Listen Carefully  Open-Ended Questions Repeat their answer back to the customer  Follow-up to ensure they’ve found the information