IM reference interviewing

When I started library school I thought that the “reference interview” was something librarians made up so they’d have something to write articles about. Was I ever wrong!

I really enjoy seeing the way reference transactions unfold. The neat thing about doing reference via IM is that you’re left with a record of it to look over.*

patron: hey whats up
me: hi
me: have a question?

patron: what do u mean
me: this is the thomas ford memorial library….we have a s/n in case anyone needs to ask a question, renew a book or whatever
patron: oh ya do u have any books on the American Revolution
me: yeah, are you looking for fiction or are you doing a report?
patron: ya
me: do you have a particular topic about the AmerRev?
patron: maybe about where the wars took place like a map
me: ok, i can find you a book on that, or i can see if i can find you a webpage that might have some info…
patron: k
me: which would you like?
patron: could u save a couple books for me
me: yeah, no problem. i can put them at the reference desk (the back desk) for you. what name should i put them under?
patron: [gives name]
me: ok, will do.


me: laters
patron: bye bye

Overall, this seems to be a decent reference transaction. One thing I noticed when marking up the text is that I typed many more words than my patron. Kids are accustomed to using the new varient of English that they’re unknowingly developing through IM and SMS, adults are accustomed to their old guard English. Just like I can tell from two IMs whether someone pinging me is younger or an adult (or somewhere in between), I’m sure that kids can tell that I’m not quite one of them (even though I IM on a daily basis).

Any ideas about the little prelude to the question? Was this patron feeling me out, seeing if the library really was using IM? Perhaps this is equivalent to this type of common F2F exchange:

me: Hi, what can I help you with? Are you finding everything okay?
patron: Yeah, I’m okay, thanks.
(pause)
But you know what? Where would I…
me: (thinks – heh, got another one!)

The ellipsis in the IM transaction is bonus link to a bit more of our conversation. Check out how excited this patron was at the possibility of games in the library!

*This feature of IMs also needs to be taken seriously when it comes to privacy concerns.

One thought on “IM reference interviewing”

  1. Aaron,

    What great transcripts! They demonstrate how an informal chat between librarian & patron can result in some good information services being rendered. And thanks for mentioning the privacy issue. We’ve decided not to keep any of our IM Reference transcripts for that reason.

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