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Module Module 1
Reference service
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Reference process
 Steps of process
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Module 1   Overview
Module 2   Interview
Module 3   People
Module 4   Strategies
Module 5   Resources
Module 6   Ethics

Steps of the Reference Process

What are the basic steps?

What You Can Do to Find and Fill the Real Information Need

     Solving problems and meeting "gaps" in knowledge is a process involving many steps. The process requires mediation, i.e. serving as an intermediary between the patron and the information to find the real gap in knowledge.

     In Modules 2 and 3 you will find more in-depth material about specific behaviors and actions used in the reference process. You will learn how to conduct a reference interview to find the real information need and follow-up to be sure that the need is met.

     Modules 4 and 5 introduce you to the next steps, the strategies and resources you will use once you've determined the real need. Module 6 explains the professional ethics and responsibilities of the reference process. The steps of the process are summarized here.

Steps of the Reference Process

  1. Encouraging the patron to contact the library when there is an information need (outreach).
  2. Finding out what the real information need is (the reference interview).
  3. Finding the information that will meet the need (reference search).
  4. Making sure the patron's need really has been met (follow-up).

Virtual Reference - the Same Process!

     The reference process for remote reference services requires the same process steps: outreach (in the library or on the Web); skillful interviewing; careful selection of search strategies and resources; and building a follow-up (and evaluation) step into the service. As an example of outreach, one recommendation is to provide links to virtual reference services that "catch the attention of potential patrons and clearly communicate the nature of the service."

[Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.]

Major Point: Reference work is a process that includes mediation and follow-up.


     Role of public service staff.



Reference is a four-step process: provide outreach, determine information needs, fill needs, and follow-up.

Ohio Libraries

Outreach is part of the process. Summer Reading Program at Wickliffe Public Library

Summer reading program, outreach at Wickliffe Public Library.

Web Links

 The first step of the reference process is outreach -  letting people know what services and resources are available. Learn more in  "Marketing the Library" web training from Ohio Library Foundation.

Guidelines for Information Services 1.6 states:
--The library should actively publicize the scope, nature, and availability of the information services it offers.
--It should employ those media most effective in reaching its entire clientele or selected segments of that clientele, as appropriate.

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