Digital reference interview

Issues in digital referencing (Janes, 2008):

·        Contending with the vagaries of licensing agreements – how much of text can be sent via email?

·        Appropriate and high-quality training materials

·        Web forms were developed to replace the reference interview

·        Staffing levels and expectations – does the physical reference desk also do digital referencing simultaneously?

·        Marketing of digital reference services

·        Referring questions on to a collaborative service was not favoured by librarians = defeat

·        How to incorporate it into library services and how to develop it so it’s not one-at-a-time service

·        Not readily accepted by all staff and clients

The mission of digital referencing is: to be incorporated not only in the institutional framework of libraries but also, and more crucially, in the mindset of its staff and the information lives of their clientele.

Definition of a reference interview. How would you describe it?

A reference interview involves asking the right questions to narrow and guide the search for information that meets the user’s needs.  By modelling the right questions for students to ask during research, TLs will assist them in making the right decisions and looking in the right places when gathering information.  Use the reference interview as proof that that’s what adults and librarians do when searching for information.  So they know it’s an authentic process and skill.

Many reference questions, when first put to a librarian, will be vague and unformed. Before directing the user to the likely source of information to satisfy his/her apparent need, the teacher librarian should find out:

·        what information is really required

·        how much information is required

·        at what level.


Janes, J. (2008). An informal history (and possible future) of digital reference. In Bulletin, ASSIS&T. Retrieved October 1, 2013 from


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