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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Reference Interview Training

Reference Interview Training

Relational Factors Practice


In small groups, divide into librarians and patrons.

  • Patrons will develop a brief character sketch, including these elements:
    • Research Experience of the patron, including familiarity with research tools, formulating research questions, etc.  Can also include whether you are an undergrad, grad, or faculty.
    • Stage of the Information Search Process the patron is currently in
    • Prior Experience using library resources, including reference help
  • Librarians will greet the patron, make small talk as appropriate, and ask questions to learn more about the patron’s information need and background factors influencing it (comfort level, prior experience, personal knowledge, etc.)



  • Have a conversation with a patron until you feel comfortable that you know what the patron is looking for, and their level of expertise, comfort, and interest in it.

Character Sketches for Relational Content Practice

  1. Student A is a first-year student taking a rhetoric class (this is equivalent to English composition). They received their assignment for their argumentative paper earlier this week and they have a broad topic in mind.
  2. Student B is a graduate student who is finishing up their coursework and they have started to write their dissertation. While they know quite a bit about most of their area of research, there are other parts about which they are not very familiar.
  3. Faculty Member X has worked at the U of I for 40 years. They are not very tech-savvy, but have a question about which they think they simply need “a quick nod in the right direction.”