I chose my local public library to complete this assignment. Before going on my quest of having a reference librarian aid me in finding a good book, I was nervous that this assignment could very easily become awkward. I’m not sure if people really just walk up to the reference desk and ask for a good book. That seems strange to me. So I decided to bring my unassuming eleven year old daughter along as my patsy in case things became a bit uncomfortable.
I noticed the reference desk at this particular library right away, since it is located between the entrance and the young adult section. As I approached the reference desk, I noticed that there were a few flyers printed on bright yellow paper patrons could take. There was also a calendar that provided patrons with times of programs that were happening throughout the months of January and February. The 2017 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award Master List was present along with information about upcoming programs and activities at the library. There was only one person staffing the desk. I asked if she had a moment to help us find a good book that we both could enjoy. During the initiation stage of the reference interview, the librarian was very friendly and was willing to assist me with a smile and a hint of a giggle in her tone to establish report.
The librarian began the reference interview by negotiating my question. She began with asking about my hobbies and books that I have enjoyed reading in the past. We discussed The Selection Series by Kiera Cass and Nora Roberts. She listened and began to ask a few more open ended questions; this “neutral questioning involves asking open questions that will help the librarian discover the true nature of the question” (Cassell & Hiremath, 2013, p. 219). The librarian told me that had also read The Selection Series and told me I should give the novellas a try. She pointed me in the direction of the young adult section with the call number written on a slip of scrap paper. As I was walking away, she said I was also welcome to use the online card catalog on any of the library’s computers if I wanted to find something different. According to the authors of Reference and Information Services: An Introduction, “when the librarian refers the user to another part of the library or to another library or information source, the librarian should verify that useful information will be found by the user” (Cassell & Hiremath, 2013, p. 24). Unfortunately, this did not occur during my experience. I left the library without her asking if I was satisfied with the book she recommended.
The interview was very brief and I felt a little disappointed with the results. I was very hopeful in the beginning of the interview that I would have a positive experience. The librarian seemed approachable through her nonverbal responses, but once I asked my question I felt like she lost interest. The quality of my interview quickly diminished because she failed to “continually check in with the user to determine whether the material discovered meets the user’s needs” (Cassell & Hiremath, 2013, p. 21). I also thought it was a little odd she did not use any sort of electronic or print resources especially since “there is a growing number of excellent reference tools, including electronic resources, that the reference librarian can use, preferably along with the reader so that the readers’ advisory transaction becomes a shared exploration of books” (Ross, Nilsen, Dewdney 2009, p. 163). This made me feel like my question was not important enough for her to spend much of her time finding me different options. She was successful in helping me find a book; however, I was not satisfied with my interaction.
It is likely, this person did have some training in readers’ advisory because the interview began well, but maybe she chose not to utilize her training. My experience was much like the findings from the assigned reading, conducting the Reference Interview. In this study conducted at the Nassau, New York, Library system, it was discovered that “a non-methodical, informal, and serendipitous response was the norm to a patrons request for a ‘good read’” (Ross, et al., 2009, p.163). It would be interesting to go back and ask a more specific question to see if my results would be similar.
Cassell, K. A., & Hiremath, U. (2013). Reference and information services: an introduction (3rd
ed.).London: Facet Publishing.
ed.).London: Facet Publishing.
Ross, C. S., Nilsen, K., & Dewdney, P. (2009). Conducting the reference interview: a how-to-do
it manual for librarians. London: Neal-Schuman Pub.