Conducting the reference interview : a how-to-do-it manual by Ross

By Ross

Carrying out Reference Interview - How-To-Do-It handbook for Librarians (02) by means of Ross, Catherine Sheldrick - Nilsen, Kirsti - Dewdney, Patricia [Paperback (2002)]

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Extra resources for Conducting the reference interview : a how-to-do-it manual for librarians

Sample text

That's the sort of thing you want, isn't it? (closed question for confirmation) User: Yes. ] Okay, there's crafts of Japan, crafts of Mexico, crafts of New England, crafts of Papua, New Guinea. They should all be in the same area, but you may have to go further afield for some of them. I'll write these numbers down for you. Crafts of the Indians-you'd like that too? User: Mmm. Librarian: Right. That one is crafts of the world, so it should have different crafts in it. And then check these other ones.

In fact, the way to develop such questions is to work backward from a known answer to a question that will elicit this answer. The students in a reference course or the librarians undergoing unobtrusive observation are being tested on whether or not they have succeeded in discovering this one pre-determined, correct answer. In these contrived cases, the questions truly do fit the paradigm of information as commodity. They are decontextualized and exist independently apart from any user-probably no real user has ever asked them.

They were asked to rate expected difficulty on a 5-point scale, 1 being extremely difficult and 5 being extremely easy. The data indicate that, on average, both users and librarians overestimated the likely difficulty of answering. The questions, in other words, turned out to be easier to answer than they had initially appeared. Both before and after the transaction, users tended to think of their questions as easier to answer than librarians did. Although we might expect users to be unaware of the difficulty involved, a very interesting finding was the lack of significant correlation between the librarians' initial assessment of the questions and their final assessment.

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