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Conducting the Reference Interview
Professor Marie Radford has published a new book, which is based on the latest research in communication theory but tailored specifically for real-world application.
Conducting the Reference Interview

by Rob Christopher, Marketing Coordinator, ALA Publishing American Library Association

Based on the latest research in communication theory but tailored specifically for real-world application, the newly updated third edition of “Conducting the Reference Interview,” published by ALA Neal-Schuman, speaks equally to the needs of students preparing to enter the profession and those who are already fielding reference inquiries. Working in consultation with a stellar advisory board of scholars and practitioners, authors Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Kirsti Nilsen, and Marie L. Radford present a convenient and comprehensive resource that will teach you how to understand the needs of public, academic, and special library users across any virtual setting—including email, text messaging, and social media—as well as in traditional and face-to-face models of communication. Packed with exercises and examples to help you practice effective reference transactions and avoid common pitfalls, this book:

  • tackles the fundamentals of the reference interview, from why it’s important in the first place to methods for setting the stage for a successful interview and techniques for finding out what the library user really wants to know;
  • covers the ins and outs of the readers’ advisory interview;
  • examines a wide range of contexts, such as children, young adults, parents, seniors, adults from diverse communities, and those with disabilities;
  • presents case studies of innovative reference and user encounters at a variety of libraries;
  • offers updated coverage of virtual reference, including new research, virtual reality transcripts, and a look at crowd-sourcing reference via social media;
  • features new content on common microaggressions, with guidance on how to use awareness of emotion as a factor in reference interactions to ensure better outcomes;
  • discusses topics such as respecting/protecting privacy, overcoming assumptions, implicit judgment, the importance of context, determining the real information need, and many other lessons learned from challenging reference encounters; and
  • thoroughly addresses policy and training procedures, as well as the unique challenges faced by paraprofessionals and non-degreed staff.

Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use.

Ross is Professor Emerita at the University of Western Ontario. She has taught extensively and presented more than fifty workshops on reference and readers’ advisory to library professionals in the United States and Canada. With Kirsti Nilsen, she is co-author of the third edition of “Communicating Professionally.” She is a four-time winner of the Reference Services Press Award. In addition to teaching widely, Nilsen’s library experience includes employment at MIT and the University of Rhode Island, and as special librarian in corporate libraries. She is also the author of “The Impact of Information Policy” and coauthor of “Constraining Public Libraries: The World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade in Services.” Radford is Chair of the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University, New Jersey. Her writing credits include “Library Conversations: Reclaiming Interpersonal Communication Theory for Understanding Professional Encounters” (with Gary Radford) and “Research Methods in Library and Information Science, Sixth Edition” (with Lynn S. Connaway). She gives frequent keynote speeches and presentations at national and international library conferences and has presented numerous workshops and webinars. She received the 2010 ALA/RUSA Mudge Award for distinguished contributions to reference service.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide. ALA Editions and ALA Neal-Schuman publishes resources used worldwide by tens of thousands of library and information professionals to improve programs, build on best practices, develop leadership, and for personal professional development. ALA authors and developers are leaders in their fields, and their content is published in a growing range of print and electronic formats. Contact ALA Editions at (800) 545-2433 ext. 5052 or

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