A Reference for That: Reference Service: Every Time It’s Personal

David A. Tyckoson


One of the most important—and most enduring—aspects of reference service is its personal nature. Reference service is an opportunity for a library patron to get expert help with information, usually without an appointment, and never with a service fee. That type of service is rare in today’s world.

When a reference librarian helps someone, we focus directly on the needs of that one patron. It’s usually one librarian working with one patron—one person at a time. We help each person with their specific question and make our service as personalized to that patron’s needs as possible. We adapt our responses to the individual needs of each patron, even when the question has been asked before. Whether it is the first time anyone has ever asked the question or the umpteenth student working on the same assignment, we mold our responses to meet the needs of every individual person. This is how reference librarians operate—and what makes our service unique.

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Joan C. Durrance, “Factors That Influence Reference Success: What Makes Questioners Willing to Return?,” Reference Librarian 23, no. 49/50 (November 1995): 243–65.

Samuel S. Green, “Personal Relations Between Librarians and Readers,” Library Journal 1 (October 1876): 74–81.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.2.6526


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