Competency I




Students in the SJSU iSchool’s graduate programs must demonstrate their ability to use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information;

Providing excellent customer services to our users is at the forefront of an information professionals position regardless of the type of information organization that employs them. Using services concepts and customer service skills to ensure we are providing our users with the accurate, relevant, and appropriate information is the at one of the core values of the information profession. Providing excellent service in libraries requires a staff that puts service at the forefront of their duties. According to Evans & Alire (2013) “Staff, paid and volunteers translate a library’s strategic plan into services and collections for the community”. Information professionals are in a service position and tend to be the public face of libraries. We are the individuals who interact with patrons daily and these interactions translate into public opinions about libraries. Making service skills and understanding service principals an essential part of librarianship. As described by Evans & Alire (2013) how library staffs “determine how the users and community view the library. All the other resources, no matter how rich they may be can’t, in the long term, overcome poor staffing poor in the sense of skills and attitudes about one small word: service”. Information professionals need excellent customer service skills to be an advocate for libraries. When patrons leave the library having a positive experience it leads to a positive feeling about the library and makes it more likely that patrons will return to the library for their information needs.

Understanding the importance of good customer service skills is essential to connect users with information. In this digital age of patrons who have grown up with using technology it is harder than ever to for information professionals to demonstrate to information users the importance of utilizing and gathering accurate and appropriate information according to Bell (2015) “To sort out these more difficult questions and elicit useful information from people who convince that they are already good searchers who have done everything possible, you need all your best communication and people skills”. In order to connect users to information, we must have the customer service skills requires establishing a foundation of comfort and trust with our users. Conversation skills are needed to actively listen and respond to our customers. Before information professionals can connect users to the information they need they must first understand what information a user’s needs.

In order to assist our users with their information needs, we need to understand what techniques are applicable to providing good customer service skills.  Cassell & Hiremath (2013) recommend a six-step approach to conducting a seamless and productive reference interview: (1) establish a rapport with the user, (2) negotiate the question, (3) develop a successful search strategy, (4) locate and evaluate information, (5) ensure the question is fully answered, and (6) close the interview. Following these steps can help information professionals ensure they are meeting the needs of their users accurate, efficiently, and appropriately.  This six-step approach was based on the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) guidelines for providing reference services also have suggestions for providing reference service to effective and efficient service to patrons.  These are best practices designed for reference professionals, but they are applicable to many positions within libraries and information organizations.  According to the Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers (2013)the five main areas of behavioral performance are:

  1. Visibility/Approachability
  2. Interest
  3. Listening/Inquiring
  4. Searching
  5. Follow Up

These guidelines have been updated to include guidelines for virtual reference services. The same five main areas of performance have stayed the same, but they have added sections for general, in-person, and remote reference.  These are the essential skills needed to provide service to users regardless of the methods they are using to ask for assistance. Although, the need modification related to the mode of services being utilized such as in-person or virtual the basic concepts of service are the same. Being friendly, approachable, and engaging helps draw people into the reference desk. In virtual services, this can be translated into responding quickly with a friendly greeting. According to Gallo (2012) ” A customer’s perception of their experience begins to be formed in the first ten seconds of an interaction. Make those seconds count”. The old adage you catch more flies with honey is applicable to service-orient skills in the information professions having a smiling, warm, and polite persona invites users to seek your assistance. We cannot help the users who will not approach us because we look busy or unfriendly.

Being interested and attentive to the user while they are speaker is also important to providing excellent service to our users. Many individuals would recommend making eye contact with your users to demonstrate interest. I believe this is an oversimplified and not responsive to diverse cultures we serve. Understanding that eye contact can make individuals from a myriad of cultures feel uncomfortable as well as individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although as Cassell & Hiremath (2013) states a librarian should ask, “open-ended questions such as these: Please tell me more about your topic. What do you want to know about the topic? What additional information can you give me?”. Asking open-ended and closed-ended questions until an information professional clarifies the needs of their users is not only an excellent reference skill it is also an excellent listening and service skill. Not interrupting a patron while they are explaining their needs and waiting patiently for a user to respond to any follow-up questions are inherently important to have effective communication as well as exceptional services skills. Following up and providing feedback to the user is also important to providing our patron with outstanding service. Letting our users know that they can come back to use our services again and ensure that their needs have been met by eliciting their feedback. Leave the users with a way to contact you if they have more questions or need further explanation. These skills are applicable to many types service that information professionals provide to users.

Keeping in mind your users when providing service is important to providing good service to information seekers. In an academic library faculty, staff, and students have extremely varied information needs and the service you provide them needs to adjust accordingly. Keeping in diverse groups of information users when providing customer service skills and understanding cultural differences in our users also helps us to provide excellent service to our patrons.  The easy access of information to users increases the need for information professionals to provide efficient, accurate, and thorough information as well application of appropriate service techniques and principals.


INFO 210 Future of Reference

Info 210 Reference Observations

INFO 210 Practice reference questions #2

My first piece of evidence is my Future of Reference assignment from my INFO 210 Reference Service course. Students in this course were required to describe the relationships between user needs, information resources, and relevant
information technologies. The assignment also asked students to describe current issues and trends in reference services, including the impact of technology on user needs and reference interactions. The assignment asks students to evaluate reference services that address the needs of a diverse and changing society. The future of reference assignment was to look ahead to the role of reference in a rapidly changing world, you will read several articles about the future of reference and write a short paper describing your personal view of how you think reference service will evolve to support users in the years ahead. In my paper, I reflected on how technology has impacted libraries and library service models. I also began to construct a philosophy regarding reference and reference services. I included this as evidence because it demonstrates my understanding of service skills and techniques as they relate to reference services.

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My second piece of evidence is my Reference Observation assignment from my INFO 210 Reference Services course.  Students in this course were required to “secret shop” librarian in several different ways. Students were required to go to a library and ask a reference question and observe the librarian’s application of reference interview skills. The assignment required us to do an in-person observation as well as a virtual observation. Then go to a library and observe reference personnel providing service to patrons. Then identify how these librarians were implementing the guidelines determined by RUSA. I “secret shopped” a local public library and asked a reference question related to the STEM field. I then used a question I was asked at the community college library to “secret shop” the Library of Congress’s virtual chat service. Then I compared the service to the guidelines present by RUSA. Then I observed a librarian at a local community college conduct a reference interview and discussed how they incorporated the guidelines into their reference interview. I included this assignment because it demonstrates my understanding service concepts, principals, and techniques as they related to reference services.

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My final piece of evidence is my practice reference questions assignment #2 from my INFO 210 Reference Services course. Students in this course were required to answer practice reference questions utilizing the service skills and principals that were demonstrated in our lectures and textbook. We were to provide citations and search strategies for locating materials for a particular user. I provide an introduction to how I would approach answering the question, strategies I used in finding the answer, and my answer to the reference question. I included this assignment as an evidence to my understanding of how to provide information to a user that is accurate, appropriate, and relevant while implementing proper services techniques.

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In my experience providing customer service at the circulation desk, periodicals desk, reception at a hotel, and answering questions at Barnes and Noble in the early years of my career. These positions provided me with a basis for understanding how to provide outstanding customer service skills to users. However, my education in information science has helped me to gain a greater understanding of the techniques needed to provide your users with the information they need and keep them coming back for more assistance. Listening, knowing your users, being approachable, probing, asking for feedback, and following up are all vital to giving your customers an experience they want to relive. Implementing proper service models can make a difference on having an information organization that patrons want to visit and one that levels a negative impression on the community members. Librarians left an early positive impression on me and impacted my life for the better. The first book I ever read independently was put in my hands by kind librarian and that lead me to seek assistance from librarians in high school and college. Continued positive reinforcement over the years from my interactions with librarians lead me to love libraries and advocate for them throughout my life. Ensuring that there are future generations that grow to love libraries start with information professionals that provide users of all ages with positive experiences that encourage them to love libraries too. In my future as an information professional, I will apply all I have learned to ensure that patrons leave with an exceptional experience and impression of information professionals.


Bell, S. S. (2015). Librarian’s guide to online searching: Cultivating database skills for research and instruction (4th ed.) [Kindle DX version].

Cassell, K. A., & Hiremath, U. (2013). Reference and information services: An introduction (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Gallo, C. (2012, May 16). Apple store’s secret sauce: 5 steps of service. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from

Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.) [Kindle Fire version]. Available from

Reference and User Services Association. (2013). Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. Retrieved from