Reference Interview

This guide gives a basic overview of the reference interview for faculty and staff at the Marriott Library.

For assistance

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Ismaeil Hakimi
Information & Research Specialist, Middle East Collection Liaison
Marriott Library, University of Utah
295 S 1500 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84112


"Hello? I'm having trouble finding articles."

"Hi, thank you for your question! My name is ____ and I'll be more than happy to help with that!"


Before the reference interaction even begins, a patron needs to see that you are approachable!

The librarian's first step in initiating the reference interaction is to make the patron feel comfortable in a situation that can be perceived as intimidating, confusing, or overwhelming. This is especially true when the patron is a member of an underserved or otherwise marginalized group.


How to be Approachable:

  • Body language
    • Sit up straight
    • Don't look bored
    • Make eye contact
    • Smile
  • Acknowledge the patron with a friendly greeting


After the patron has initiated the reference interaction, it is your responsibility as a librarian to show interest in the research topic. This assures the patron that their research or question has value.

How to Show Interest:

  • Focus complete attention on the patron and their information need
  • Maintain or re-establish eye contact with patron throughout transaction
  • Signal an understanding of the patron's needs through verbal and non-verbal confirmation, such as nodding of the head, restating their question, or asking additional questions to better understand the patron's query
  • Demonstrate a high degree of objective, nonjudgmental interest
    • While not every query will be of interest to the librarian, the librarian should embrace each patron's information need and should be committed to providing the most effective assistance.
  • Get the patron started on initial steps of their search, then move on to other patrons and provide more assistance later if needed
    • Don't forget to check back on their progress!

Helpful Links


Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library