Skills

Staff who provide virtual reference services need to know everything your in-person reference staff know as well as special skills related to communicating online.  Therefore, for the sake of training staff, it is useful to divide training into two parts: core reference training and virtual reference training. 

Core Reference Training. This includes knowledge of information sources, information needs of your patron population, search strategies, citation tools and formats, access methods and policies, referral policies and mechanisms, as well as local services and facilities. This aspect of training is beyond the scope of this site. Fortunately, a number of books, articles, and websites discuss the topic in detail. Visit the VR Resources section for a complete bibliography. 

Virtual Reference Training. This includes knowledge of how to conduct an effective reference interview in online environments, how to evaluate online reference transactions to enhance service quality, how to create and apply reference policies and procedures, in addition to using various communication methods based on users’ learning styles and communication needs.

In this section, we have chosen to divide this content into 4 sections, each focusing on a particular set of skills. You can go through those sections in any order. In addition, we provide information on virtual reference sites and recommended readings pertaining to virtual reference training:

Skill 1. Ability to conduct an effective reference interview in online environments (chat, instant messaging, email, SMS/text, etc.).

Skill 2. Ability to evaluate online reference transactions and apply improvement strategies to enhance service quality in virtual reference.

Skill 3. Ability to create and apply reference policies and procedures in an online environment.

Skill 4. Ability to use various communication methods and to easily move between them based on users’ learning styles and communication needs, including the ability to create visual learning objects using relevant technologies.