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The purpose of a reference interview is to:
  1. Identify as precise and understanding of the patrons needs as possible.
  2. Understand the depth of the information needed and how much is desired.
  3. Complete the interview efficiently.
  4. Develop a positive working relationship with that patron.

While each situation and user's need varies, in general, the interview consists of a series of open ended questions that allow the patron to freely express themselves without limitations.  As an understanding starts to emerge, closed ended questions which limit the patron's response help the interviewer pinpoint information needs and confirm that understanding.

It is not the purpose of this Web page to outline all of the strategic and subtle details of interviewing a reference patron.  Many consider this interview process an art.  My resource page for reference and bibliography has links to evaluation tools for administering reference service

Stages of the Reference Process  The National Library of Medicine provides a brief introduction to effective interviewing strategies and key resources to guide a beginner through an interview on medicine and health topics. 

Ore on the Web  The Ohio Library Council provides a more detailed look at how to conduct a reference interview.

Nebraska Library Commission (STAR) Reference Manual  includes basic interviewing strategies as well as guidelines for service to the disabled, ethical issues, issues related to specials populations, specials topics, etc.

The Reference Interview  Virginia Commonwealth University has an on-line guide and an interesting, interactive simulation. 

Guidelines for Professional Competency for Reference and User Services Professionals  The American Library Association Reference and Users Services Association (RUSA) defines what is meant by quality reference service.  This site contains links to important personal behaviors that can attract a user or repel one and their standards for legal, business and medical reference services.

The Reference Interview in the Digital Library: A Bibliography  The Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identifies a variety of resources that address reference interviews in a digital context.

The Reference Interview.  Houston Area Library Service's reference guide consists of 3 modules:  (1). Skills, (2).  Questions, (2). Answers.  

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