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Guidelines for Evaluating Reference Performance



The following guidelines specify criteria for meeting The Library's goal of providing consistently excellent reference service.

The guidelines are intended to provide a librarywide framework for defining knowledgeable and courteous reference performance and for training and evaluating reference staff.

The order of the sections is deliberate, based on a decision to give primary emphasis to the two most important components of reference servic -- interpersonal skills and solid bibliographic knowledge and strategy.

    1. Interviewing techniques
      1. User neutral questioning techniques to help patrons define the topic and its limits, e.g.,
        1. Asks open-ended questions that are free from assumptions in in order to determine the patron's real need or the situation that prompted the request for assistance;
        2. Listens and shows attentiveness by checking own understanding;
        3. Elicits more information when needed;
        4. Closes the interview by checking with the patron to be sure response satisfies the patron's need.
      2. Handle multiple patron interactions when necessary, e.g., juggles more than one patron or telephone; tactfully cuts short rambling questions.
      3. Advises patrons of what can be realistically achieved when the patron's need exceeds the limitations of existing services and resources, e.g., advises patron regarding turnaround time using standards set by staff.
    2. Identifying sources and helping patrons use them
      1. Supplies or helps patron find accurate information; identifies source and currency of information.
      2. Chooses appropriate sources; paces the amount of information and speed of its delivery to match the patron's ability to absorb it; pulls from the entire collection what is relevant to the patron's need at the moment.
      3. Teaches patron how to use library/catalogs, e.g., involves patron in search strategy as appropriate; interprets catalogs/bibliographic tools as to increase patrons self-confidence in using the catalogs for bibliographic verification; shows patron how to find more if necessary; offers to go with patron to use a tool if needed.
      4. Rethinks question if source does not work out, e.g., approaches from another angle; consults LCSH and appropriate catalogs to locate other sources; assesses patron's previous work.
    3. Follow-through
      1. Willing to do off-Desk work to give better service when appropriate, e.g., takes patron reference call-backs; offers to make an appointment to give in-depth assistance when Desk is busy.
      2. Retraces patron's steps when time permits.
      3. Assists patron with all stages of search, e.g., checks back to see if patron found the source satisfactory, explains how to find an item in The Library, etc.
      4. Learns from information gained during reference interaction about gaps in library collections/services; share such information with colleagues in order to improve reference service in future (by, for example, acquiring new reference materials).

    1. Continually educates self about reference collection, library resources, new books, new electronic databases, etc.
    2. Uses card, microfiche, and local, regional, and national computer catalogs appropriately and efficiently.
    3. Is able to access all relevant on-line sources in an effective manner.
    4. Maintains a knowledge of current events as appropriate (campus, local, national, international).
    5. Uses Desk information files; contributes to their usefulness.
    6. Shares specialized knowledge of collections or subject with colleagues as appropriate.

    1. Is able to explain basic collection development policies of The Library or unit and the policies of appropriate other libraries.
    2. Is able to explain basic public service policies to patrons, e.g., in-person vs. telephone service, obtaining library cards, NRLF access, interlibrary borrowing, etc.
    3. Appropriately advises users about available library services, e.g., FASTBOOK, BAKER, IBS, tours and training sessions, computer searching.
    4. Accurately explains library policies to patrons, uses good judgment in implementing policies, e.g., charging out reference materials, food and smoking restrictions, photocopying, etc.

    1. Uses appropriate local resources, including the expertise of colleagues if suitable, to give patron as complete assistance as possible and to avoid making unnecessary referrals.
    2. Refers patron to other appropriate reference or service points for further assistance when inquiries go beyond the extent of the unit's collections or the reference personnel's area of responsibility and training.

    1. Maintains an open, approachable attitude, e.g., looks up frequently; does not appear too busy with off-Desk work to help; greets patron with friendly tone of voice and facial expression; invites patron to return for more help; limits off-Desk or personal phone calls and appointments; faces public.
    2. Acknowledges users who approach Desk or are waiting for assistance, e.g., makes eye contact; breaks off conversation with colleagues; says someone will be with patron soon.
    3. Discerns and offers assistance to those in need, e.g., catches eye of "wanderers" to offer help, if possible; leaves Desk to help patron find or use a reference tool.
    4. Responds non-judgmentally to patrons or questions that may seem bizarre or offensive, etc.; responds to disruptive or bizarre behavior in accordance with section A.6 of the Public Service Policy Manual.
    5. Maintains a calm, courteous, professional demeanor, e.g., does not discuss prior patron in front of others; uses good judgement in discussing library/department/colleagues with patrons; handles difficult patrons effectively.

    1. Arrives at Desk promptly.
    2. Normally does not intrude on colleague's reference questions.
    3. When asked, willingly assists colleague with reference questions.
    4. Proffers assistance tactfully when colleague needs help and willingly accepts tactful assistance from partner.
    5. Is aware of Desk workload and carries fair share.
    6. Willingly assists in housekeeping tasks, e.g., cleans up work area before leaving.
    7. Skillfully juggles many demands on time (telephone, multiple patrons, equipment failures, etc.) at busiest times.
    8. Is tolerant of colleagues' different approaches to answering a particular reference question as long as accuracy and courtesy are maintained.
    9. Keeps statistics.

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