USE OF COMMUNITY RESOURCES
WHO KNOWS THE ANSWER?
When beginning work on a reference question, it is often
more efficient and productive to ask yourself who knows the answer
rather than what book contains the answer.
Your job, remember, is to meet the patron's information need in
whatever way works best. Putting a patron in touch with a knowledgeable
individual who can help is often a far better way to really meet those
The staff of libraries in smaller communities often know their communities
and patrons well.
Don't be afraid to cultivate your local experts and call on
them for help.
How can you locate local experts?
1. You can use your own knowledge and contacts to identify people
who can help.
2. Your local phone directory can help you identify people working
in various fields. Have a question on jewelry? Try a jewelry store!
3. Ask others for referrals. Even if people you know can't help,
they may know of someone who can.
4. Be alert to your patrons. You will come to know their strengths
and areas of expertise.
5. Read your local newspaper! Every issue!
Giving a referral is giving an answer. Be sure
to tell the patron to call back if the referral doesn't work out.
INFORMATION AND REFERRAL
Patrons often have needs that books or web sites alone will not meet.
They need the services of groups or agencies for social or health
problems, for example.
In our society, there are thousands of helping agencies. How can a person
know which one to turn to for a particular problem? Helping put patrons in
contact with the best agency for their needs is the role of "Information
and Referral" or "I and R". Information and Referral services
try to match needs with agencies to make good referrals.
Libraries are becoming more and more involved in providing I & R services
as part of their overall mission of meeting patrons' information needs.
Often libraries use (or even compile) directories of social service agencies.
These directories are indexed by standard key words describing the kinds
of help offered.
Some directories are in paper form while others exist as electronic databases.
You should think of referring patrons to agencies and groups as part of
your overall answer to their questions.
A complex need, for example, a relative with a head injury, may be
met by a combination of things:
1. Referrals to local agencies.
2. Books on coping with brain injury.
3. Articles in magazines.
4. Authoritative web sites.
5. DVDs on how to care for a disabled person.
Don't limit yourself to sources at hand on the library shelf.
Try to think of good reference as providing many kinds of help to
truly meet people's information needs.