Third Week: The Reference Interview
Objectives: To look at the real-time online reference interview from the user's perspective. To explore how information literacy concepts can be applied.

Required Reading          Activities         Assignments       Recommended Reading  

OrientationGetting Ready for TrainingBasic Skills & Current Awareness Evaluating & Improving24/7 Ref LogonTraining Program OverviewStatewide VRS Home Page

Required Reading 

Promoting information problem solving in digital reference responses
Abby Kasowitz
Suggestions for how the Big6 information literacy model can be promoted within a virtual reference environment.

Introduction to Information Literacy (ACRL)
A concise introduction to information literacy.

  • Prepare for your Secret Patron activity, designed to help you look at virtual reference transactions from the user’s perspective.  First, read the overview of the activity; then read the Reference Guidelines developed by RUSA.  Think about how these guidelines apply in the chat environment.

  • Read the Secret Patron scenario that the trainers e-mail to you.  Think about how this patron would interact with the librarian.  Get ready to assume this role.

  • In addition to the scenario, the trainers will send to you a list of three virtual reference services to visit.  Use the VRS directory to link to the three Web sites.

  • Visit the three assigned VRS sites.  Use your Secret Patron scenario to ask your questions.  Then use the Transaction Checklist to evaluate your experience as a patron.

  • Participate in this week’s online meeting on Information Literacy in Virtual Reference.  We’ll use the 24/7 Online Meeting software.  The trainers will send date, time, and instructions to you by e-mail.  Remember the Norms for Online Meetings.  Take time to think and reflect on this week's readings and activities in preparation for the online meeting.


  1. Read the articles or visit the Web sites above that are marked “Required.”
  2. Participate actively in this week’s online meeting on Information Literacy. At the pre-scheduled date and time, click on the 24/7 REF LOGON button and use the Meeting Key provided by the trainers.
  3. Summarize your impressions of your Secret Patron activity, using these questions to frame your summary. Post your summary to the VRS Training listserv. What did you learn from this activity that you want to be sure to remember when you are providing virtual reference service?
Recommended Reading

Chat Reference: A Guide to Live Virtual Reference Services.
Jana Smith Ronan
Libraries Unlimited, 2003.
Read Chapter 9, "The Reference Interview Online."

Conducting the Reference Interview.
Catherine S. Ross et al
Neal-Schuman, 2002.
Read Chapter 6, "Performing the Reference Interview in an Electronic Environment."

An Unobtrusive Evaluation of Online Real Time Library Reference Services
Neal Kaske and Julie Arnold
An important example of "secret observer" activity.

The Virtual Reference Librarian's Handbook.
Anne G. Lipow
Neal-Schuman, 2003.
Read Chapter 4, "Transfer What You Know to What You Do."

First Week | Second Week | Third Week | Fourth Week | Fifth Week

Sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Reference Project, Washington State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA).

Last Modified: 01-Mar-2005