It’s the home stretch, kids!!!! This semester is ending rapidly, my internship is ending faster than that, and my blog posts are due in a couple days.
I’m going to take this time to talk about the reference interview. I conduct reference interviews in both my jobs and at Ivy Tech and I have developed a certain fascination with them.
The reference interview is the conversation that ensues when a student approaches with a question. It’s very methodical on the librarian end, with lots of questions, points of clarification, and trying to understand the broader context of why a student needs this particular piece of information. It really is an art form and I love it.
Want to know who hates it? The student. They hate being asked questions, they hate waiting, they don’t understand why I can’t just type something and magically give them an answer. Many see it as a waste of time. So the art of the reference interview is two-fold: being effective while giving the student the impression of progress being made. Because progress is being made but they don’t see that.
When I conduct a reference interview, I always ask about the assignment (types of sources, how many) and if there’s a larger argument being made. This is my base and my mind is already churning. Then I’ll ask about their search attempts so I don’t repeat exactly what they have already tried. Often they have only tried one thing so most of the ideas I’ve formulated are still valid. Then we make some search attempts together. The reference interview doesn’t ever end. It get paused maybe – I shift roles from question-asker to teacher. But then it restarts when the first couple searches weren’t as lucrative as I had hoped and we have to rethink the strategy, get new keywords, and maybe even try a new database.
The reference interview shifts wildly when conducted over chat reference because the online nature of the interaction gives students a variety of false impressions including…
- We are robots
- There are 100s of us
- We don’t have emotions
- They will get answers faster
- We are Google
- We don’t remember them
So, with the chat reference interview, it is of the utmost importance to make it seem like you’re doing something that the chat patron would deem productive. My go-to strategy to say something like “I have a couple ideas. Can you tell me [quick follow up question]? I want to make sure I’m on the right track”. They answer. I say “Okay cool! Let me test a couple ideas. I’ll be back in a minute.” The patron is super grateful and waits for me to come back. I return often because after 2 minutes of silence, they’ll think I ghosted them and leave me completely.
Some jobs I’m looking at expect me to do research and I really hope to find ways to do research on the chat reference interview.