The Reference Encounter: Interpersonal Communication in the Academic Library, Publications in Librarianship no. 52

Marie L. Radford


Sweeping changes in the reference process are occurring due to advances in information retrieval technology and the Internet. How have these transformational changes affected the goal of reference service?

This book challenges the traditional view of reference goals: the belief that users seek only satisfactory answers to their questions. The research presented shows that users and librarians differ in their descriptions of goals for reference, and that of critical importance is the goal of building positive relationships with library users.

Both content and relational dimensions are present in every instance of interpersonal communication. Like other types of interactions, the information exchange between librarian and user is not, and cannot be, free of relational messages.

This book adds to our current understanding of this complex process by exploring interpersonal issues in the academic reference encounter through indepth interviews following reference interactions at academic libraries.

The relational model of communication provides the theoretical foundation used to frame a better understanding of the reference process and to integrate the perspectives of both librarian and library user. Illustrated with the eloquent voices of both library users and librarians, the results help explain the complex nature of the communication process inherent in reference transactions.

0-8389-7951-3, 1999